A National Pause for Remembrance

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Does Osama watch our 9/11 broadcasts?

If he does, he needs a bank of TVs in his cave, or wherever he is, to follow the whole drama. On the main screen there is his own visage, taunting America as he likes to do on the anniversary. But he's seen that one before, so he clicks over to the elaborate procession in New York, with bagpipes, tears, a flag salvaged from the rubble six years ago, and the somber reading of 2,750 names. Does the architect of 9/11 sit rapt through the whole two-hour recitation, grinning beneath his beard as the names go on and on?

Then there's the screen showing bin Laden's archenemy, President Bush, outside the White House, stern and silent at 8:46 a.m., the moment the first plane slammed into the World Trade Center. Cut to the Pentagon, where 184 died, prompting Defense Secretary Robert Gates to promise this year that bin Laden and other enemies of America "will never again rest easy." In Shanksville, Pa., there's another ceremony honoring the 40 people on United Airlines Flight 93, who bested bin Laden's foot soldiers and left them no option except to plow the hijacked jet into the earth. Did those followers fail Osama? Is he angry?

But bin Laden can't see what's going on off camera. In New York, for the first time, 9/11 ceremonies were held away from ground zero, because new buildings are finally going up in the massive pit where the twin towers used to be. Fewer mourners turn out on each anniversary, and this year one abc affiliate near New York even planned to air regular programming instead of the four-hour ceremony. It turned out New York isn't completely back to normal, and the station changed its mind. But next year, maybe?

In Shanksville, after the ceremony, a few mourners lingered near a temporary memorial, which has stood longer than expected because there's not enough funding for a permanent site. In Washington, thinning crowds quickly dispersed, going back to their budgets and political battles. And across the nation, away from the TV cameras, Americans paused, remembered, felt, and turned to their affairs.