NEW YORK, Sept. 11 (Xinhua) -- Family members of the victims in the 1993 and 2001 World Trade Center terror attacks gathered on Tuesday at the National September 11 Memorial plaza in New York City's lower Manhattan area for a memorial ceremony marking the 11th anniversary of 9/11.
The event began at 8:39 a.m. at the World Trade Center site, also known as Ground Zero after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks leveled the twin towers to the ground, amid music played by bagpipers and drummers and the U.S. national anthem performed by the Young People's Chorus of New York City.
At 8:46 a.m., the first moment of silence was observed to mark American Airlines Flight 11 that crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center exactly the same time 11 years ago.
Throughout the morning, family members recited the names of all 2,983 victims from the twin towers and Pentagon attacks, and of those on United Airlines Flight 93, as well as those who died in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
The simple, solemn and poignant ceremony was punctuated by six moments of silence -- twice in observance of the moments at which each building was hit, twice in observance of the moments when each tower fell, once in observance of the time American Airlines Flight 77 struck the Pentagon, and once in observance of the time Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania.
Edwin Morales, a 31-year-old soldier who lost his cousin in the 9/11 attacks, told Xinhua at the ceremony: "The 9/11 attacks are the same as the attack on Pearl Harbor, and people will always remember. That's why I joined army in 2007. I want to serve my country. We will never let this happen again."
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, along with former mayor Rudy Giuliani, shared the stage with the victims' families, but they didn't make any comments. This was the first time that no words from government officials were heard at the annual 9/11 memorial ceremony.
It took about four hours to read the names of the victims as the day grew warmer, and family members cried and clutched each other throughout the process. Some carried pictures or flowers. One woman wore a shirt carrying the message "We miss you and think about you every day, Mom."
Among the earliest visitors to the memorial site was Kim Williams, who sat alone on the stairs of Zuccotti Park, Liberty Street around 7 o'clock in the morning. "I live in lower Manhattan and I always remember the day of 9/11, when I saw the collapse of the two buildings," said Williams.
At sunset Tuesday, the traditional "Tribute in Light" will return to honor the memory of all those lives lost 11 years ago. The cluster of searchlights, located at West and Morris Streets in Lower Manhattan, will be on throughout the night to create two vertical columns of light, which will fade away at dawn on Wednesday.