US marks 9/11 with somber tributes, new monument to victims

A U.S. flag that few over the World Trade Center is presented during ceremonies marking the 17th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, at the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York, U.S., September 11, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 11 September 2018
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US marks 9/11 with somber tributes, new monument to victims

NEW YORK: Americans were commemorating 9/11 with somber tributes, volunteer projects and a new monument to victims Tuesday, after a year when two attacks demonstrated the enduring threat of terrorism in the nation’s biggest city.
Margie Miller was among the thousands of 9/11 victims’ relatives, survivors, rescuers and others who gathered on a misty Tuesday morning at the memorial plaza where the World Trade Center’s twin towers once stood. She came to the site from her home in suburban Baldwin, as she does 10 or so times a year, to remember her husband, Joel Miller. Only a few fragments of his remains were recovered.
“To me, he is here. This is my holy place,” his widow said before the ceremony began a moment of silence and tolling bells at 8:46 a.m., the time when the trade center was hit by the first of two terrorist-piloted planes. Victims’ relatives who had brought signs bearing photos of their loved ones wordlessly held them high.
President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence headed to the two other places where hijacked planes crashed on Sept. 11, 2001, in the deadliest terror attack on American soil.
The president and first lady Melania Trump flew to Pennsylvania to join an observance at the Sept. 11 memorial in a field near Shanksville, where a new “Tower of Voices” was dedicated Saturday. Pence is attending a ceremony at the Pentagon. Trump, a Republican and native New Yorker, took the occasion of last year’s anniversary to issue a stern warning to extremists that “America cannot be intimidated.”
Nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks on 9/11, when international terrorism hit home in a way it previously hadn’t for many Americans. Sept. 11 still shapes American policy, politics and everyday experiences in places from airports to office buildings, even if it’s less of a constant presence in the public consciousness after 17 years.
A stark reminder came not long after last year’s anniversary: A truck mowed down people, killing eight, on a bike path within a few blocks of the World Trade Center on Halloween.
In December, a would-be suicide bomber set off a pipe bomb in a subway passageway near Times Square, authorities said. They said suspects in both attacks were inspired by the Islamic State extremist group.
The recent attacks in New York, as well as terror attacks elsewhere, were on Miller’s mind as she arrived Tuesday.
“You don’t want to live in fear, but it’s very real,” she said.
Debra Sinodinos, who lost her firefighter cousin Peter Carroll and works near the trade center, said she tries not to let the recent attacks unnerve her.
“You have to move on,” she said as she headed into the anniversary ceremony with her extended family. “Otherwise, you’d live in fear.”
The 9/11 commemorations are by now familiar rituals, centered on reading the names of the dead. But each year at ground zero, victims’ relatives infuse the ceremony with personal messages of remembrance, inspiration and concern.
For Nicholas Haros Jr., that concern is officials who make comparisons to 9/11 or invoke it for political purposes.
“Stop. Stop,” pleaded Haros, who lost his 76-year-old mother, Frances. “Please stop using the bones and ashes of our loved ones as props in your political theater. Their lives, sacrifices and deaths are worth so much more. Let’s not trivialize them.”
This year’s anniversary comes as a heated midterm election cycle kicks into high gear. But there have long been some efforts to separate the solemn anniversary from politics.
The group 9/11 Day, which promotes volunteering on an anniversary that was declared a national day of service in 2009, routinely asks candidates not to campaign or run political ads for the day. Organizers of the ground zero ceremony allow politicians to attend, but they’ve been barred since 2011 from reading names or delivering remarks.
The names are read by victims’ loved ones, some of them not yet born when the attacks happened.
“Even though I never met you, I’ll never forget you,” Isabella Del Corral said of her grandfather, Joseph Piskadlo.
Hours after the ceremony, two powerful light beams will soar into the night sky from lower Manhattan in the annual “Tribute in Light.”
Memorials to 9/11 continue to grow at Shanksville, where the Tower of Voices will eventually include a wind chime for each of the 40 people killed there, and ground zero, where work is to begin soon on a pathway honoring rescue and recovery workers.
It will serve as a way to honor those who became sick or died from exposure to toxins released when the Trade Center’s twin towers collapsed. Researchers have documented elevated rates of respiratory ailments, post-traumatic stress disorder and other illnesses among people who spent time in the rubble.
About 38,500 people have applied to a compensation fund, and over $3.9 billion in claims have been approved.
Meanwhile, rebuilding continues. A subway station destroyed on 9/11 finally reopened Saturday. In June, doors opened at the 80-story 3 World Trade Center, one of several rebuilt office towers that have been constructed or planned at the site. A performing arts center is rising.
However, work was suspended in December on replacing a Greek Orthodox church crushed in the attacks; the project hit financial problems.
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Associated Press writers Stephen Groves and Karen Matthews contributed to this report.


Leaders of two Koreas meet in hopes of easing tension

Updated 38 sec ago
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Leaders of two Koreas meet in hopes of easing tension

SEOUL: South Korean President Moon Jae-in arrived in Pyongyang Tuesday to meet his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong Un for the third time this year amid a deadlock in denuclearization talks between the US and North Korea.
During a three-day summit in the North Korean capital, both leaders are expected to discuss ways of defusing military tension along their heavily fortified border, as well as restarting their joint economic cooperation with massive investments from the South.
The summit, however, is not expected to yield tangible results about Pyongyang’s denuclearization, which is well down the list of agenda items for the Moon-Kim summit talks.
Upon his arrival at the Sunan International Airport in Pyongyang, Moon and his wife Kim Jung-sook were greeted by Kim and his wife. With bright smiles, Kim hugged Moon, as he did at their second encounter at the northern part of the border village of Panmunjeom in May. Thousands of North Korean residents holding flower bouquets waved national and unification flags and an honor guard quick-marched in tight lines.
Riding a black convertible Mercedes limousine, both leaders rode together along the Pyongyang streets to the Paekhwawon State Guesthouse, while their wives shared a separate vehicle to the luxury guest house, where former South Korean Presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun stayed during their summits with Kim Jong Un’s father in 2000 and 2007 respectively.
The first Moon-Kim meeting was held at 3:45 p.m. and continued for two hours at the headquarters of the Central Committee of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party. The two sides are expected to discuss ways toward signing a permanent peace treaty to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War, which had ended in a truce, according to the presidential office.
Kim expressed his hope for progress in the nuclear talks with the US, thanking Moon for his balancing role between Washington and Pyongyang.
“Thanks to this (US-North Korea meeting), regional conditions stabilized and a more advanced outcome is expected,” the North Korean leader said at the start of the meeting.
Praising Kim’s “bold decision,” Moon said: “I feet the great weight we must bear, along with a heavy responsibility. I wish this will be a summit that produces abundant results as a gift to the 80 million people (of the Korean Peninsula) ahead of Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving Day).”
A day before departing to Pyongyang, Moon said on Twitter: “What I want to achieve is peace. Not a tentative change which could be volatile depending on the international situation, but irreversible, permanent and unwavering peace, regardless of what might happen in the global arena.”
As part of efforts to secure peace and closer ties with the communist North, Moon is expected to focus on ways of easing military tensions, including the possibility of disarming the Joint Security Area in the Panmunjeom, removing front-line guard posts and preventing naval conflicts along their boundary in the Yellow Sea.
Another key topic for this summit is expanding their joint economic projects that have been suspended for a decade owing to North Korea’s provocations, including nuclear tests and test-firings of ballistic missiles.
President Moon has pledged efforts to improve the North’s poor infrastructure, such as roads, railways and electricity supply under his so-called “New Economic Map Initiative.” To that end, Moon decided this time to take South Korean business tycoons with him to the reclusive state to let them discuss practical economic cooperation with North Korean officials.
Among those included in Moon’s economic delegation are Lee Jae-yong, heir to the Samsung Group; Choi Tae-won, chairman of SK Corporation; Koo Kwang-mo, CEO of LG Group; and Hyun Jeong-eun, chairwoman of Hyundai Group.
But increasing economic engagement with the North has sparked a backlash since for now almost all inter-Korean economic projects with North Korea are prohibited by US-led United Nations economic sanctions on North Korea.
“It seems, being accompanied by business tycoons, President Moon wants to showcase his will to expand inter-Korean economic cooperation,” said Hyun Jin-kwon, an associate professor of the economics department at Ajou Unversity in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province. “But it should be very cautious since North Korea is still imposed by economic sanctions. Any hasty business cooperation with the North could be a violation of the international sanctions.”
The inclusion of billionaire Samsung scion Lee Jae-yong is controversial as Lee was convicted of crimes related to a bribery scandal involving former President Park Geun-hye. Lee initially received a five-year prison term and later it was reduced to two and a half years and suspended. He awaits a final ruling.
“Trials are trials; work is work,” said Im Jong-seok, presidential chief of staff, the supervisor of this summit between Moon and Kim, at a press briefing Monday.
Im, Moon’s right-hand man, admitted this summit was not likely to be used as a breakthrough to the stalled denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang.
“It’s difficult to have any optimistic outlook (for progress on denuclearization),” he told reporters. “The summit is expected to produce meaningful agreements that fundamentally remove the danger of armed clashes and ease fears of war (between the two Koreas).”