Casting aside political differences to mark the seventh anniversary of the worst terrorist attacks on US soil, rival presidential candidate Barack Obama and John McCain paid tribute to the victims of 9/11 during a joint visit to New York’s Ground Zero on Thursday.
Accompanied by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Cindy McCain, the Republican candidate’s wife, the presidential candidates laid flowers at the site and observed a moment’s silence for the victims of the attack.
The two suspended campaigning to mark the day when four hijacked planes crashed into New York’s World Trade Center, Washington’s Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania, killing nearly 3,000 people.
Earlier Thursday, Bloomberg, opened the commemoration ceremonies at Ground Zero with a minute of silence at 8.46 am ET, when, exactly seven years ago, the first of four hijacked planes used in the attacks hit the north tower of the World Trade Center.
Addressing a somber gathering of victims’ families as well as survivors of the attack, Bloomberg said the day would “live forever in our hearts and our history."
The anniversary, said Bloomberg, was about, "New Yorkers, Americans and global citizens remembering the innocent people from 95 nations and territories that lost their lives that day."
A hush descended on the gathering and a lone cello played in the background as the names of the victims were read out.
Commemorations at the White House and the Pentagon
In Washington, President George Bush and First Lady Laura Bush, along with US Vice President Dick Cheney, and his wife, Lynne Cheney also held a minute of silence on the White House lawns.
The silence, marking the moment when American Airlines Flight 11 hit the north tower of the World Trade Center, was followed by a choral rendition of the Irving Berlin song “God Bless America.”
At a ceremony at the Pentagon, a lone bagpiper walked through a new memorial constructed near the site where American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the US military headquarters, killing 184 people and five hijackers.
Bush joined the former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld and current US defense secretary Robert Gates as a flag was raised at the memorial, where each of the victims is honored with a bench, a tree and a little pool.
McCain lays a wreath in Shanksville, Pennsylvania
At a morning memorial service in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where United Flight 93 crashed in a field, McCain laid a wreath of flowers at the site.
In a short speech, McCain commemorated the heroism of the passengers, who tussled with the hijackers in an attempt to get control of the aircraft before it crashed.
"No American living then should ever forget the heroism that occurred in the skies above this field on September 11, 2001," said McCain.