Undated KROC AM News) - One of the most visible sites on this 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks is what came to be known as Ground Zero.

The Twin Towers and other buildings were wiped out in less than two hours.

The attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon would have included another - most feel the White House or the Capitol - had it not been for the heroism of the doomed passengers of a fourth flight that ended up crashing into a former mining site in Pennsylvania at more than 550 miles-per-hour. Among those passengers was Bloomington, Minnesota native Tom Burnett who spoke with his wife just before confronting the hijackers.

Nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks, including 343 firefighters and 72 law enforcement officers, making it the deadliest day for first responders in US history. The loss of property and infrastructure alone was put at around $10 billion and the ultimate overall cost has been estimated by some at more than $3 trillion.

The attacks forever changed the U.S and led to years of military conflicts that continue today, leading to more tragedy and memorials for those who died in the war on terror that began on Sept. 11, 2001.

As has become the custom, family members of those who died as a result of the 9/11 attacks were at the new World Trade Center site Sunday morning.  A moment of silence was observed at 8:46 a.m. at the site known as the 9/11 Memorial, marking the moment the North Tower was hit by the first airplane. Family members then began reading the names of the 9/11 victims. The site is referred to as “sacred ground” by many New Yorkers and others.

Visitors have the opportunity to reflect by the two large water pools that are located where the Twin Towers once stood. They are surrounded by walls that include the engraved names of the 9/11 victims. Also at the site is the 9/11 Memorial and Museum which opened to the public in 2014.

Ceremonies were also held Sunday at the Pentagon and the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, PA in honor of the victims of the other two flights.  

Here is a letter from the president of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum:

Dear Friend,
Fifteen years ago today, we witnessed horrific tragedy and watched with shock as the world transformed in 102 minutes under a clear blue sky. This morning, as we have each year, we stand together at the 9/11 Memorial to remember the nearly 3,000 innocent men, women, and children who were killed in the attacks at the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon, and near Shanksville, Pa. The annual commemoration ceremony, centered on the reading of the names of those who were senselessly murdered, will begin at 8:40 a.m., and I invite you to share in this sacred reflection by watching the ceremony live on our website and engaging on social media using #Honor911.

We gather today, on the 15th anniversary of 9/11, to honor those who were killed. Despite the passage of time, together, we at the 9/11 Memorial with the millions of visitors who come from all over the world each year, continue to honor the pledge to never forget and ensure the names of those who were killed and the actions of so many who rushed into rather than away from danger remain a permanent part of history.

Every day at the Memorial and Museum we hear stories of young people learning about the history of 9/11 to help educate their peers, supporting service projects in remembrance of those lost, and even deciding to become first responders in order to follow in the courageous footsteps of those who were killed while responding to the devastating attacks. Perhaps the most touching are the stories of those who lost a parent who was a first responder on 9/11 and have chosen to answer that same call, continuing the heroic legacy put in place by their parents and so many others that day.

oth Matthew Asaro and Brendan Stackpole, now in their mid-twenties, were young kids on September 11, 2001, who lived in New York and looked up to their firefighter dads. Their fathers, Carl Francis Asaro, an FDNY firefighter of Battalion 9, and Captain Timothy M. Stackpole of FDNY Ladder 103, were two of the over 400 first responders killed in the line of duty that day.

Matthew and Brendan recently completed training in the FDNY Probationary Firefighter Academy, visiting the Memorial shortly before graduation to lay a wreath in honor of their fathers and in memory of all the lives lost on 9/11. They now carry on their fathers’ legacies as proud members of the Fire Department of New York, dedicating themselves to the city their dads gave their lives to protect.

For Matthew and Brendan, their fellow first responders, other family members, and all of us, 9/11 will never be just a date in history. It’s the day we remember 2,977 individuals who should have been able to go home to their loved ones that evening; the day we realized the best of humanity can and will emerge in our darkest moments, even in the face of absolute terror and confusion; and the day we honor these memories by upholding a legacy of service and compassion.

We each have a role in defining this legacy for future generations and I am so tremendously proud to see young folks like Matthew, Brendan, and so many others going above and beyond to honor the memory of all we lost on 9/11 and ensure a brighter future built on the spirit we found that day.

As we stand together in solemn remembrance today, I urge you to keep your thoughts and prayers with the families and to reflect on how we can carry on the memories of their loved ones, now and forever.

Warm regards,
Joe Daniels
President & CEO

A reminder:  Rochester’s St John’s Catholic Church holds its annual Blue Mass Sunday at 2 p.m.  The service at the downtown church is open to the public.

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I visited the Ground Zero site a few years ago when construction on the memorial/museum and new towers was still underway and have included some photos from that day, along with some from the Flight 93 Memorial site which was nearing completion.