On 9/11, day of mourning becomes day of service

NEW YORK (AP) - Drawing on the spirit that spurred volunteers to
rush to the burning World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, Americans
looked for ways to help each other on a day better known for
mourning the thousands of people killed in the nation's worst
terrorist attack.

Teresa Mathai, whose husband, Joseph Mathai, died at the World
Trade Center eight years ago Friday, planned to grieve at a morning
wreath-laying ceremony in Boston and hear his name read out loud.
Then she planned to install drywall at a low-income home in south
Boston with Habitat for Humanity, one of thousands of volunteer
efforts planned since Sept. 11 was declared a national day of
service.

"Everyone has a different way of mourning," she said. "Some
people keep it absolutely sacred. For me, this is something that
gives us solace."

The combination of mourning and national giving was troubling to
some who feared the volunteerism would overshadow a somber day to
remember the four hijacked jetliners that crashed into the twin
towers, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field, killing nearly 3,000
people, most in New York.

"When I first heard about it, I was concerned," said Debra
Burlingame, whose brother was the pilot of the American Airlines
jet that crashed into the Pentagon. "I fear, I greatly fear, at
some point we'll transition to turning it into Earth Day where we
go and plant trees and the remembrance part will become smaller and
smaller and smaller."

Thousands were expected at now-familiar ceremonies in New York,
at the Pentagon and at the crash site of United Airlines Flight 93
in a Shanksville, Pa., field.

At a park southeast of ground zero, family members were to join
with volunteers who made firefighters meals or removed tons of
debris from the smoldering trade center site to read victims'
names. Four moments of silence were planned in New York - for when
jetliners crashed into each tower and for when each tower
collapsed. Vice President Joseph Biden was to attend the ceremony.

A wreath was to be laid at a memorial to the Pentagon, where 184
people died when a jet slammed into the building. President Barack
Obama and Department of Defense Secretary Robert Gates were to meet with victims' family members.

The president would "speak about what the day means and the
sacrifices of thousands, not just at the Pentagon, but in
Pennsylvania and certainly and most obviously in New York," White
House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Thursday. The president on
Thursday pledged to "apprehend all those who perpetrated these
heinous crimes, seek justice for those who were killed and defend
against all threats to our national security."

In Pennsylvania, the names of the 40 passengers and crew of
United 93 were to be read at 10:03 a.m., the time the plane
crashed.

Jose Melendez-Perez, a customs agent credited with refusing U.S.
entry to a man officials believe was supposed to be the fifth
hijacker aboard the flight, was going to the site for the first
time. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell was giving the keynote
speech.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who will also be
at the memorial service in New York, said Friday that the
anniversary is a "day of sorrow and tragedy, but also a day of
heroism and unity," and that remembrance and volunteerism are
fitting memorials.

"By serving our communities and our country today and
throughout the year, we commemorate our past while also preparing
for our future," Napolitano said.

Across the country, a fundraiser to repair storm damage at
Central Park, beach cleanups and repairs of homeless shelters were
among the organized efforts to give back. Obama and Congress
declared Sept. 11 a day of service earlier this year.

A Cleveland service organization planned to paint pies cooling,
flower vases and sleeping cats resting on windowsills on
boarded-up, abandoned properties in a Slavic neighborhood.

A Boston group founded by victims' family members - two of the
four planes left from Boston - planned to write letters to U.S.
soldiers overseas and pack care packages. Over 100 volunteers in
San Jose, Calif., planned to plant fruit and vegetable gardens for
low-income families.

The attacks killed 40 people in Pennsylvania, 184 at the
Pentagon and 2,752 in New York.

This year, one new name will be read - a victim added to New
York's death toll in January. The medical examiner's office ruled
that Leon Heyward, who died last year of lymphoma and lung disease,
was a homicide victim because he was caught in the toxic dust cloud
just after the towers collapsed.

It's the second time the city has added to the victims' list
someone who died long after Sept. 11, ruling that exposure to toxic
dust caused lung disease.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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