Sundial part of 9/11 commemorative events

Eleventh anniversary brings quiet, passive events

  • Beth Williams and her son, Richie Williams, 12, from Easton, look at the 9/11 memorial at the World Trade Center.
Beth Williams and her son, Richie Williams, 12, from Easton,… (Baltimore Sun photo by Algerina…)
September 11, 2012|By Erin Cox and Mary Gail Hare, The Baltimore Sun

After the speeches and somber fanfare that marked the 10th anniversary of the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil, this year's 9/11 events began Tuesday with a more subdued — but no less emotional — observance.

On a sunny September morning, weather reminiscent of that harrowing day 11 years ago, dozens of people surrounded the 9/11 Memorial of Maryland at the Inner Harbor and watched in silence as the shadows from Baltimore's World Trade Center moved across the monument.

Architects sited the monument so that the towering building could act like a sundial. Every Sept. 11, the shadows align precisely with the notches in the marble base that note the exact times of key events in that fateful two-hour time span. The names of the 69 Marylanders lost that day are carved into the easternmost point of the memorial and remain drenched in sunlight until after 10:30 a.m.

"What better way to capture the event than to use the sun," said Doug Bothner, architect for the memorial project. "And keeping those names in the light is most important."

David and Nancy Conner, visiting from Milford, N.J., lingered at the site. Eleven years ago, he was a pilot, waiting for a flight at Newark Airport.

"This absolutely reminds us how one day changed all our lives," he said.

Across the Baltimore area, ceremonies were held to mark the anniversary.

In Harford County, volunteer firefighters and community groups held a flag-waving tribute on the Route 152 overpass at Interstate 95. In Baltimore County, organizers rallied groups to plant 2,977 flags for each person who died that day along Putty Hill Road in Parkville.

Anne Arundel County scheduled a moment of silence near its 9/11 memorial — also dedicated last year. Baltimore County public safety employees planned to sound their horns twice, timed to commemorate each attack on the World Trade Center, then follow with a moment of silence.

At the memorial in Baltimore, a 22-foot-long piece of mangled steel — part of the columns salvaged from the North Tower — sits atop the white marble base. Several visitors left flowers and miniature American flags. Many snapped photos or shot video. Several placed a hand on the stone for a few minutes and prayed.

"This is as close as I can get to the remnants and the memories," said Raphael Aquino, a 38-year-old software engineer. "I have to be here today. This monument is not just impressive. It is important so that our generation won't forget."

Sean Marshal, an attorney, placed the palm of his hand on the stone for several minutes and reached into the steel.

"They have really incorporated all the elements of what happened that day," he said. "Every year, we have to pay tribute to all the people who perished."

Gary Pyner, 17, a high school senior and an EMT in Clinton, N.J., was in town for the Ravens game. Before he headed home, he lingered at the monument.

"It really hits you, when you see this," he said.

Hannah Byron, Maryland's assistant secretary for tourism, film and the arts, works in the building.

"Hundreds pass through here daily and stop and take pictures," she said. "But the shadows only align on 9-11."

The Maryland State Arts Council, which organized the $1.5 million project and unveiled it on the 10th anniversary, has also put together a 9/11 exhibit on the top floor of the 27-story building and an audio tour at 410-767-7911.

In Anne Arundel County, a steady stream of police officers and fire fighters streamed in Tuesday to Mission BBQ in Glen Burnie, where they chowed down on free sandwiches offered as a thank-you from the business whose hallmark is helping first responders and members of the military. The informality and talk, punctuated by the singing of the national anthem at noon to rousing cheers against a backdrop of an American flag hanging from extended county fire truck ladders appealed to many of the people who stopped by in and out of uniform.

"We've had so many ceremonies for so many years," said Rod Devilbiss, a retired Baltimore City deputy fire chief. The less formal gathering "takes the edge off" the somber remembrance of the loss of so many lives, especially among the brotherhood of men and women in uniform on Sept. 11, 2001, he said.

"The first responders prefer it that way. they don't want to make it about pomp and circumstance. They want to make it about community support for what they do," said O'Brien Atkinson, president of Anne Arundel County's largest police union, which had previously received a donation from the restaurant for its emergency aid fund.

"I think the 11th [anniversary] is even more sad in a way because there's no events, no big monuments to unveil," said Beth Williams, 52, of Easton, who came to Baltimore for Monday night's Ravens game but stopped by the state's 9/11 memorial first.

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