NEW YORK -- The names of the Sept. 11 dead, some called out by children barely old enough to remember their fallen mothers and fathers, echoed across Ground Zero Sunday in a haunting but hopeful tribute on the 10th anniversary of the terror attack. "God is our refuge and strength," President Barack Obama said, quoting the Bible.
Weeping relatives of the victims streamed into a newly opened memorial and placed pictures and flowers beside names etched in bronze. Obama and his predecessor, George W. Bush, bowed their heads and touched the inscriptions.
Obama, standing behind bulletproof glass and before the white oak trees of the memorial, read the Bible passage after a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. when the first jetliner slammed into the north tower 10 years ago.
The president, quoting Psalm 46, invoked the presence of God as an inspiration to endure. "Therefore, we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea."
Obama and Bush were joined by their wives as they walked up to one of the two reflecting pools built over the towers' footprints, part of a Sept. 11 memorial that was opened for relatives of the victims.
The site looked utterly different than it had for any other Sept. 11 anniversary: Along with the names in bronze, two manmade waterfalls flowed directly over the footprints of the towers, surrounded by dozens of white oak trees.
The New York ceremony, which ended with the playing of Taps in the early afternoon, was the centrepiece of a day of remembrance across the country. It was a chance to reflect on a decade that changed American life, including two wars and the overhaul of everyday security at airports and in big cities.
In a tribute at the Pentagon, Vice-President Joe Biden invoked a "9/11 generation of warriors."
"Never before in our history has America asked so much over such a sustained period of an all-volunteer force," he said. "So I can say without fear of contradiction or being accused of exaggeration, the 9/11 generation ranks among the greatest our nation has ever produced, and it was born -- it was born -- it was born right here on 9/11."
Defence Secretary Leon Panetta observed a moment of silence at 9:37 a.m., marking the time a jet struck the centre of the U.S. military. He paid tribute to 6,200 members of the U.S. military who have died in the Iraq and Afghan wars.
In Shanksville, Penn., a choir sang at the Flight 93 National Memorial, and a crowd of 5,000 listened to a reading of the names of 40 passengers and crew killed aboard the plane a decade ago.
In New York, family members were reading the names of 2,983 victims -- 2,977 killed in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001, and six killed in the first terror attack on the trade centre, a truck bomb in 1993.
"You will always be my hero," Patricia Smith, 12, said of her mother.
Bush quoted a letter from President Abraham Lincoln to a mother who lost all five of her sons in the Civil War.
"I pray that our heavenly father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement," Bush said.
Sumika Tanaka came with her mother from Tokyo to find the name of her husband, who was working for a Japanese bank in the south tower when he was killed.
"It's not going to disappear," said Tanaka, 30. "It will be here 10 years from now. And that's what is important to me."
Some family members held children on their backs who were not yet born when the towers were attacked.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, opening the ceremony of remembrance, said: "Although we can never un-see what happened here, we can also see that children who lost their parents have grown into young adults... Good works have taken root in public service."
As the sun rose, an American flag fluttered over six stories of the rising 1 World Trade Center. The sky was clear blue with scattered white clouds and a light breeze, not unlike the Tuesday morning 10 years ago.
The anniversary arrived with security officials in New York and Washington on alert.
-- The Associated Press