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Nation marks 9/11 with acts of volunteerism

September 11, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) -- Philip Hayes was 67 and had been retired from the Fire Department more than 20 years on the morning when he rushed to the burning World Trade Center. His family says he rescued children from a day care and then headed to the south tower, where he died.

His son, Philip Hayes Jr., was among the mourners who read aloud the names of the lost Friday on the eighth anniversary of 9/11 -- a day when the nation, in rituals of grief and simple acts of volunteerism, rekindled the spirit of service embodied by his father.

"Every one of them is loved, and every one of them is missed," the younger Hayes said. "Every one of them is a hero."

Hours after the attack and for weeks afterward, volunteers responded to New York City's needs, sending emergency workers to help with the recovery, cards to victims' families, and boxes of supplies.

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President Barack Obama, observing his first Sept. 11 as president, declared it a day of service. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg recalled acts of post-9/11 selflessness as links "in a continuous chain that stopped us from falling into cynicism and despair."

Eight years later, Americans marked the anniversary with service projects.

Volunteers in Boston stuffed packages for military personnel overseas. In Tennessee and West Virginia, they distributed donated food for the needy. Community volunteers in Maine worked on a garden and picnic area for families transitioning out of homelessness.

In Chicago, they tilled community gardens, cooked lunch for residents of a shelter and packed food for mothers and babies. And on the lawn of the Ohio Statehouse, volunteers arranged nearly 3,000 small American flags, in a pattern reminiscent of the trade center's twin towers. At the top was an open space in the shape of a pentagon.

"It's different than just seeing numbers on a paper, when you actually see the flags. It's a visual impact of those lives," said Nikki Marlette, 62, of the Los Angeles suburb of Palos Verdes Estates, visiting Columbus for Saturday's Ohio State-Southern California football game.

At a plaza adjacent to the World Trade Center site, volunteers -- from soup kitchens, advocacy groups, the Red Cross, the United Way -- joined relatives of the lost to read the names of those killed in the twin towers.

"I ask that you honor my son and all those who perished eight years ago ... by volunteering, by making some kind of act of kindness in their memory," said one of the readers, Gloria Russin, who lost her son, Steven Harris Russin.

Renewing what has become a poignant tradition, some relatives called out greetings and messages of remembrances when they reached the names of their own loved ones.

"We love you, Dad, and we miss you," said Philip Hayes Jr., whose father, long retired from the Fire Department, rushed to the site that 2001 morning and ultimately gave his life.

Theresa Mullan, who lost her firefighter son, Michael, wore a poncho and shivered in the rain as she waited for her son's name to be called. She said she couldn't dream of being anywhere else.

"It's a small inconvenience," she said of the weather. "My son is the one who ran into a burning building."

Moments of silence were observed at 8:46, 9:03, 9:59 and 10:29 a.m. -- the precise times that jetliners struck the north and south towers of the trade center and that each tower fell.

At ground zero in lower Manhattan, relatives and friends of victims visited a partially built, street-level Sept. 11 memorial plaza that had not been there a year ago.

The memorial, to be partially complete by the 10th anniversary in 2011, will ultimately include two square pools evoking the towers' footprints, with victims' names surrounding them and waterfalls cascading down the sides.

On Friday, William Weaver placed a single red rose in a temporary reflecting pool at the plaza, a photograph of his son, police Officer Walter E. Weaver, pinned to his jacket. He said the memorial was taking too long and he did not like it. "It should have been a graveyard-type of thing," said Weaver.

In Shanksville, Pa., bells tolled for the 40 victims of the fourth hijacked jetliner that crashed there.

Eight years after 2,976 perished in the attacks, Obama vowed at the Pentagon that the United States "will never falter" in pursuit of al-Qaida. "Let us renew our resolve against those who perpetrated this barbaric act and who plot against us still," he said.

On a day already fraught with emotion, the Coast Guard massed vessels in the Potomac River in a training exercise, causing confusion. The exercise took place near the bridge where Obama's motorcade had passed earlier. As a precaution, departures from Reagan National Airport were halted for about 22 minutes at midmorning.

Initial, mistaken reports on two cable news channels said the Coast Guard was firing shots on the river. A group for military families expressed outrage that the Coast Guard exercise was held while families of 9/11 victims were gathered at the Pentagon.

George W. Bush, whose presidency was defined in part by that day, had no public appearances planned. A spokesman said he would be working in his office. In a statement, he said he and his wife, Laura, were thinking of the victims and their families.

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