From a dusty embassy compound in Afghanistan to London, cathedrals and mosques, millions around the world gathered Wednesday to remember those who died in the Sept. 11 attacks and to offer prayers for peace and tolerance. Ceremonies across the globe were coupled with heightened security after a warning from the U.S. government about possible terrorist attacks.
The moment of the first attack was commemorated around the globe, starting in New Zealand, with the first line of the Requiem that Mozart wrote in his dying days.
"Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis," sang the Orlando Singers Chamber Choir at St. Luke's Presbyterian Church in Rumuera: "Grant them eternal rest, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine on them."
Choirs in 20 time zones around the world were to sing those words, each of them beginning at 8:46 a.m. local time.
"This date has been forever etched into our memories," New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said in the capital, Wellington. "The world will never forget the tragedy that took place. Those attacks were acts of utterly incomprehensible violence which shook us all profoundly."
Nearly 500 foreigners are believed to have died in the attacks. Among them were 67 Britons, 24 Japanese and 10 Australians. All told, 91 countries lost citizens.
The first commemoration of the anniversary on U.S. soil was on the Pacific island territory of Guam, which is known as the place where America's day begins.
Guns boomed in salute as about 500 people, among them representatives of the U.S. military, met in front of the governor's residence.
In Afghanistan, the country apart from the United States most affected by Sept. 11, a small piece of wreckage from the World Trade Center was buried under the flagpole at the U.S. Embassy.
At London's St. Paul's Cathedral, 3,000 white rose petals fluttered down from the dome - one for each victim who died last Sept. 11. The solemn tribute was attended by members of the Royal Family, dignitaries, friends and relatives of British and American victims.
Earlier, under the watchful eye of police sharpshooters perched on buildings around Grosvenor Square and the U.S. Embassy there, a crowd gathered at a garden that became a focal point for mourning last year's attacks.
Under a flag flying half-staff, American Ambassador William Farish told assorted dignitaries and mourners that they "were gathered in solidarity and united in determination to wipe terror from the face of the earth."
In a ceremony demonstrating the strong ties between the United States and United Kingdom, Lt. Frank Dwyer of the New York City Police Department handed over a battered British flag that was recovered from the rubble at Ground Zero.
Britain's top law enforcement official, Home Secretary David Blunkett, accepted the flag as "a symbol of the internationalism that was attacked at the World Trader Center." Dwyer, representing the City of New York, thanked the British, "who stood with us for what was truly, for us, our darkest hour," he said, invoking the works of Winston Churchill during World War II.
At London Central Mosque, Muslim leaders offered Quranic prayers for peace, justice and tolerance.
At Australia's Surfers Paradise, a popular vacation resort, thousands of people wearing colored T-shirts took to the beach to form a human stars and stripes flag. They were led by firefighters who said they felt a kinship with the 343 firefighters killed at the World Trade Center. "It's a sacred time," said Barry Brazel of the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service.
In Rome, a special Mass for firefighters was celebrated in a downtown basilica, and Pope John Paul II dedicated his weekly audience to commemorating the attacks. "No situation of hurt, no philosophy or religion can ever justify such a grave offense on human life and dignity," the pope said. He called terrorism "a show of inhuman ferocity."
In Havana, a small group of American diplomats gathered in the secluded garden of the American Mission to mourn the victims of the attack. Under the U.S. flag and a Marine Corps honor guard, America's top diplomat in Cuba, James Cason, asked for a moment of silence before reading President Bush's message to the Patriot Day Ceremony. This was Cason's first day on the job and his first act as head of the mission.
In Paris, two powerful beams of light were projected into the sky Tuesday to honor the memory of the victims - a projection to be repeated Wednesday night.
At a commemoration ceremony in Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon included Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority among sponsors of terrorism that "are all inseparable parts of the same axis of evil that threatens the peace and stability in every place in the world." Palestinian Cabinet Minister Saeb Erekat accused Sharon of "kidnapping" Sept. 11 and using it as a pretext for cracking down on the Palestinians.
Russian President Vladimir Putin phoned President Bush to express his condolences. "In Russia, they say that time cures, but we cannot forget. We must not forget," Putin said, according to portions of the conversation released on Russian television.
In Iraq, which the United States has threatened to attack for allegedly developing weapons of mass destruction, the state-owned Al-Iktisadi newspaper covered its front page Wednesday with a photograph of a burning World Trade Center Tower and a two-word headline in red: "God's punishment."
"Events like Sept. 11 are sad but it is an opportunity for the American people to feel what bombing could do to nations," said Ali Ahmed, a 47-year-old who owns a Baghdad stationery shop.
And overshadowing the memorials was a now familiar fear.
Citing "credible and specific" threats, some U.S. embassies in Asia, Africa and the Middle East were closed, and U.S. military bases and embassies in Europe enforced tightened security.
Authorities in Turkey were told that militants linked to al-Qaida might be planning poison gas attacks. Australian travelers in southeast Asia were warned following a threat to that country's interests in East Timor. But the threats seemed to pale in importance before the need among many to gather in remembrance.
It was disclosed Wednesday that the United States warned Southeast Asian governments that terrorists could use truck bombs to mark the anniversary.
A copy of the warning was obtained after it was sent to the Philippine foreign minister by Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly.
"Intelligence evaluation indicates that al-Qaida operatives are prepared to launch truck bomb attacks and they are in possession of several tons of ammonium nitrate," Kelly said in the letter for Foreign Minister Blas Ople, who is in New York. "The intelligence community considers the information credible."
Six U.S. diplomatic offices in the region - embassies in Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia and Vietnam and consulates in Indonesia and Vietnam - were closed Wednesday and most would remain closed indefinitely while security was reassessed, officials said.
Embassies in Pakistan, Malawi, Tajikistan, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain closed or shut down services to the public for the day. The embassy in Bahrain posted a statement on its Web site saying the U.S. government had credible indications that further terrorist acts were planned and "such actions may be imminent and include suicide operations."
(China Daily September 12, 2002)