NEW YORK (AP):
For the first time, elected officials won't speak at today's ceremony commemorating the September 11 attacks, an occasion that has allowed them a solemn turn in the spotlight. The change was made in the name of sidelining politics, but some have rapped it as a political move in itself.
It's a sign of the entrenched sensitivity of the politics of September 11, even after a decade of commemorating the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people at the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon, and a Pennsylvania field. From the first anniversary in 2002, the date has been filled with questions about how, or even whether, to try to separate the September 11, that is about personal loss, from the 9/11 that reverberates through public life.
The answers are complicated for Debra Burlingame, whose brother Charles was the pilot of the hijacked plane that crashed into the Pentagon. She feels politicians' involvement can lend gravity to the remembrances, but she empathises with the reasons for silencing officeholders at the New York ceremony this year.
"It is the one day, out of 365 days a year, where, when we invoke the term '9/11,' we mean the people who died and the events that happened," rather than the political and cultural layers the phrase has accumulated, said Burlingame, who is on the board of the organisation that announced the change in plans this year.
"So I think the idea that it's even controversial that politicians wouldn't be speaking is really rather remarkable."
"As the names are read out, I just listen and have great memories of people who I knew very well who were on that list of names. It was very emotional," former New York Governor, George Pataki, reflected by phone last week.
Several family members sent a political message of their own as they read names at the 2005 ground zero ceremony, calling for a fitting memorial amid a fight over a then-planned "freedom museum" that some said would politicise the site. And the 2010 anniversary unfolded amid protests and counterprotests over a proposed mosque near ground zero, as well as a furor over a Florida minister's ultimately cancelled plan to burn copies of the Quran.