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Video: Anniversary observed worldwide

Image: A U.S. Marine at a 9/11 commemoration in New Plymouth, New Zealand
Dita Alangkara  /  AP
A U.S. Marine carries a flag during a special service to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks at a church in New Plymouth, New Zealand, on Sunday.
msnbc.com news services
updated 9/12/2011 2:13:08 AM ET 2011-09-12T06:13:08

A mother in Malaysia greeted her dead son. People in Manila left roses for the victim who helped give them homes. And mourners in Tokyo stood before a piece of steel from ground zero, remembering the 23 bank employees who never made it out alive.

A decade after 9/11, the day that changed so much for so many people, the world's leaders and citizens paused to reflect Sunday. But there were also those — including a former Malaysian prime minister — who reiterated old claims that the U.S. government itself was behind the attacks.

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From Sydney to Paris, formal ceremonies paid tribute to the nearly 3,000 who perished from more than 90 countries. And, in a reminder that threats remain, Swedish police said four people were arrested Sunday on suspicion of preparing a terror attack as authorities in Washington and New York beefed up security in response to intelligence about possible plans for a car bomb attack .

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For some people, the pain never stops. In Malaysia, Pathmawathy Navaratnam woke up Sunday in her suburban Kuala Lumpur home and did what she's done every day for the past decade: wish her son Vijayashanker Paramsothy "Good morning."

The 23-year-old financial analyst was killed in the attacks on New York.

"He is my sunshine. He has lived life to the fullest, but I can't accept that he is not here anymore," said Navaratnam. "I am still living, but I am dead inside."

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In Manila, dozens of former shanty dwellers offered roses, balloons and prayers for another 9/11 victim, American citizen Marie Rose Abad. The neighborhood used to be a shantytown that reeked of garbage. But in 2004, Abad's Filipino-American husband Rudy built 50 brightly colored homes, fulfilling his late wife's wish to help impoverished Filipinos.

The village has since been named after her.

"It's like a new life sprang from the death of Marie Rose and so many others," said villager Nancy Waminal.

'Horror and sadness'
Players from the American Eagles rugby team were among the first to mark the anniversary at a memorial service in the town of New Plymouth in New Zealand. The players, who are participating in the Rugby World Cup tournament, listened to a speech by U.S. ambassador David Huebner, whose brother Rick survived the attacks on the World Trade Center.

"We watched live on television the brutal murder of 3,000 individuals," Huebner said. "We reacted with near unanimous horror and sadness."

The Sept. 11 attacks spawned many conspiracy theories around the world, especially among Islamists who allege American or Israeli involvement.

Malaysia's former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, a vitriolic critic of the West, wrote on his blog that Arab Muslims are incapable of "planning and strategizing" such attacks. He added "it is not unthinkable" for former President George W. Bush to have lied about who was responsible for 9/11.

He wrote that the World Trade Center twin towers "came down nicely upon themselves" and looked more like "planned demolition of buildings" than collapse, he wrote.

Ground Zero workers observe a moment of silence

In Pakistan, supporters of an Islamist political party staged anti-U.S. protests to mark the anniversary, holding up banners that repeated conspiracy theories. The protests by about 100 people were held in the capital Islamabad and Multan city.

But little attention was paid to such events and comments on a day dominated by sorrow and pain of the memories.

At Bagram Air Field near Kabul, the Afghan capital, about 500 soldiers gathered around a construction beam from the World Trade Center for a memorial ceremony. It was briefly interrupted by a reminder of war when a fighter jet buzzed closely overhead.

"We serve today in Afghanistan so our children will not have to fight this evil tomorrow — so that they may live their lives without fear of terrorism or religious extremism," said Maj. Gen. Daniel Allyn, the U.S.-led coalition's commander for eastern Afghanistan.

At NATO's headquarters in Brussels, a French soldier played taps and the flags of 28 alliance states were lowered to half-staff as a tribute to the victims. About 130,000 NATO troops — two-thirds of them Americans — now serve in Afghanistan. More than 2,700 service members have died in that war.

World leaders made gestures of solidarity from Spain, where Prince Felipe attended a commemorative planting of 10 American oak trees, to Kyrgyzstan, where President Roza Otunbayeva spoke at a U.S. air base that offers vital support to coalition forces in Afghanistan.

"This tragedy consolidated humanity and brought it together in the fight against the common enemy of terrorism," Otunbayeva said.

In Japan, families gathered in Tokyo to pay their respects to the 23 Fuji Bank employees who never made it out of their World Trade Center office. A dozen of the workers who died were Japanese.

Solemn silence
One by one, family members laid flowers in front of an enclosed glass case containing a small section of steel retrieved from Ground Zero. They clasped their hands and bowed their heads. Some took pictures. Others simply stood in solemn silence. There were no tears, just reflection.

Sydney resident Rae Tompsett, 81, said she's never felt angry over the murder of her son Stephen Tompsett, 39, a computer engineer who was on the 106th floor of the World Trade Center's north tower when it was hit by a hijacked plane.

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"No, not anger," she said. "Sorrow. Sorrow that the people who did this believed they were doing something good."

The retired school teacher and her husband Jack, 92, were among more than 1,000 people who packed Sydney's Roman Catholic cathedral St. Marys for a special multi-faith service.

"It's incredible that it is 10 years — it feels a bit like yesterday," Tompsett said.

South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak sent a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama, conveying his "deepest condolences" to the victims of the 9/11 tragedy, their bereaved families and the American public. Lee, whose country is one of the strongest allies of the United States, called the attacks "unpardonable" and praised decade-long U.S. efforts to fight terrorism.

And leaders in Pakistan, which has been a victim of al-Qaida terrorism but is also accused of not doing enough to crack down on militants, said they joined the people of the U.S. in honoring the memory of those killed 10 years ago.

How 9/11 changed Pakistan

"As a country that has been severely affected by terrorism, we reaffirm our national resolve to strengthening international cooperation for the elimination of terrorism," the foreign affairs ministry said in a statement.

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Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday prayed for the victims of the attacks and appealed to those with grievances to resist the temptation to resort to hate and violence to resolve their problems.

During a visit to the Italian city of Ancona, the pontiff called on all people to "always reject violence as a solution to problems and resist the temptation to resort to hate but to work within society (to resolve issues) and be inspired by the principles of solidarity, justice and peace."

Meanwhile, authorities in New York and Washington are increasing security for their 9/11 memorial services after intelligence agents got a tip that three al-Qaida members could be planning to set off a car bomb in one of the cities. Officials have found no evidence any terrorists have sneaked into the country.

The Taliban marked the anniversary by vowing to keep fighting against U.S. forces in Afghanistan and saying they had no role in the Sept. 11 attacks.

"Each year, 9/11 reminds the Afghans of an event in which they had no role whatsoever," a statement e-mailed to news organizations said. "American colonialism shed the blood of tens of thousands of miserable and innocent Afghans."

Hours later, a Taliban suicide bomber in a large truck blew it up at the gate of a NATO combat outpost in eastern Afghanistan , killing two civilians and injuring 77 U.S. troops.

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The U.S. and its allies invaded Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2001, after the Taliban who then ruled the country refused to hand over the Sept. 11 mastermind Osama bin Laden. The al-Qaida leader was at the time living in Afghanistan, where the terror network retained training camps and planned attacks against the U.S. and other countries. Bin Laden was killed four months ago at his Pakistan hideout by U.S. forces.

"Now that Osama bin Laden is dead, my brother's soul will finally rest in peace," said Yambem Laba, whose younger brother Jupiter Yambem was among the victims.

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Jupiter, an Indian, was manager at the "Roof of the World Restaurant in the World Trade Center.

About 100 family members and close friends gathered at his ancestral home in the northeastern state of Manipur for prayers Sunday.

"Osama is dead but the threat from al-Qaida has not ended," Laba said.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Photos: Remains of the day

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  1. Nancy Nee, George's sister

    A heavily dented and damaged mass hardly recognizable as the helmet it once was. Thinking about how powerful the destructive force must have been still makes her lose her breath. “George was such a tall, strong man’,’ says Nancy Nee. And yet looking at the black relic brings her a certain measure of peace. Her brother George Cain was a firefighter to the core and the helmet was an integral part of his life. On Sept. 11, George helped evacuate hundreds of guests from the Marriott Hotel, close to the World Trade Center. When the towers collapsed, he did not stand a chance. The hotel was destroyed, but most of the guests survived. To this day, her children miss their uncle very much, says Nancy. She still hasn’t shown her two youngest the helmet.

    Captions by Giuseppe di Grazia and Martin Knobbe / stern Magazine
    Translation by Anuschka Tomat (Henry Leutwyler / Contour by Getty Images for stern Magazine) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Myrta Gschaar, Robert’s Wife

    Maybe he did manage to get out of the South Tower after all. Maybe he is wandering around not knowing who he is. For years, these thoughts haunted Myrta Gschaar. She did not abandon hope, until the day authorities informed her that her husband’s wallet had been recovered. When she went to the police station to pick it up, she saw the two-dollar bill. Myrta Gschaar felt dizzy and the policemen needed to keep her from falling. It was one of the two-dollar bills with which Robert had proposed to Myrta. They had promised each other to always carry theirs with them. When Myrta had recovered, she placed the slightly charred note next to her undamaged one. She moved them toward each other as if they were about to kiss for the last time. Or the first. (Henry Leutwyler / Contour by Getty Images for stern Magazine) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Bradley Burlingame, Charles’ brother

    The poem’s words are still clearly legible: “Don’t stand at my grave crying. I am not here. I did not die.” This sentence was printed on the reverse side of the funeral card for Patricia Burlingame. Her son Charles always carried it with him, just as he did on the day that terrorists hijacked the plane he was flying. Flight AA 77 crashed into the Pentagon near Washington, D.C., at 9:37 am. Sixty-four people on the plane and 125 more inside the building died. Knowing that his brother had the funeral card on him is a comforting thought for Brad Burlingame. Just as comforting, that he likely died a hero. The flight data analysis showed that 30 minutes after takeoff, the air carrier suddenly started an erratic flight pattern. For Brad, it indicates a struggle in the cockpit. “Charles was a former Navy pilot. He defended his plane and his passengers until the very end.” (Henry Leutwyler / Contour by Getty Images for stern Magazine) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Erich Bay, Lorraine’s husband

    Lorraine Bay was supposed to be back home from her United Airlines flight on Wednesday night. On the evening of Sept. 12th, the flight attendant planned to celebrate her husband's birthday. Half a year later in their house, Erich found the presents Lorraine had bought for him: two shirts and two belts. It took Erich a long time before he mustered the strength to enter Lorraine’s room. And it took him even longer before he was able to open the box that contained her belongings that had been recovered from the area where her plane crashed in Pennsylvania. In it, he found a pair of sandals Lorraine had packed for the late summer weather. Her wedding band was slightly melted and it was missing a stone. The ring remains Erich’s most important memento of his wife. He gave Lorraine’s earrings to one of his nieces, but he will keep the wedding band until he dies. (Henry Leutwyler / Contour by Getty Images for stern Magazine) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Joseph and Samia Iskandar, Waleed’s parents

    Three frequent flyer cards and a debit card are all that remained of their son. Recovery workers at Ground Zero found neither his body nor any parts of it Thus, the parents placed the four cards along with a photo of their son in a niche in the San Fernando Mission Cemetery in Los Angeles. The plastic is the only remembrance of the last day of Waleed Iskandar's life. The youngest of three children, he was born in Lebanon and raised in Kuwait. He graduated from Stanford and Harvard. In his job as a consultant and in his leisure time with his girlfriend, Nicolette, he flew more than 400,000 miles a year. He was sitting in the window seat in row 34 when the plane crashed into the North tower. His parents, Joseph and Samia Iskandar, hope that maybe “he did not exactly know what was going on in the cockpit.” (Henry Leutwyler / Contour by Getty Images for stern Magazine) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Nelly Braginsky, Alexander’s mother

    Alexander Braginsky had immediately accepted an invitation by his employer, the news agency Reuters, to an 8:30 am business breakfast at Windows on the World on the 106th floor of the World Trade Center. Fifteen minutes later, a Boeing 767 crashed into the North Tower. “If he had only stayed in his office, if he had only been less keen on learning new things,” says his mother. Braginsky, however, wanted to know everything and he happily shared his knowledge. On the evening of the day he died, he was scheduled to hold a lecture in front of immigrants. He himself was an immigrant, who came to the U.S. from Odessa, Ukraine, when he was 15 years old. Ever since, he had helped others navigate the exciting metropolis of New York. For a long time, the wallet had been the only memory of her son that Nelly Braginsky could hold in her hands. Just this past April, she learned that a bone fragment had been found. Finally, she was able to bury Alexander. (Henry Leutwyler / Contour by Getty Images for stern Magazine) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Betzy Parks, Robert's sister

    To his sister, he was the man who wrote letters. He sent her a greeting card when she graduated from High School. He sent her encouraging words when she left for England to pursue her studies and later when she traveled Europe. Writing letters was his way of showing his affection. Thus, Betzy Parks knew immediately that she had found the perfect gift for her brother Robert when she spotted a silvery letter opener in a bazaar in Mexico in 1991. He had kept it on his desk ever since and he took it with him when he started working as a bond broker for Cantor Fitzgerald on the 105th floor of the World Trade Center. There, the father of two teenagers was known as a wizard with numbers. He knew almost every movement of the stock market since 1929 by heart, as well as every home run the New York Yankees ever made. On Sept. 11th, 2001, Cantor Fitzgerald lost 658 of the 1,000 employees in its York headquarters. (Henry Leutwyler / Contour by Getty Images for stern Magazine) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Sonia Tita Puopolo, Sonia Morales Puopolo's daughter

    When Sonia Tita Puopolo received a call almost one year after the attacks on 9/11, informing her that rescue workers had recovered her mother’s left hand with the wedding ring still on it, she did not know whether to laugh or cry. The ring, of all things! It was the symbol of the great love between Sonia Morales Puopolo and her husband, Dominic. It remained almost intact. Every diamond was in its right place. “For me it is a symbol of hope despite all the sadness,” says her daughter. Today, Sonia Tita Puopolo wears the ring just as her father wished. She even wrote a book about the ring. The Puopolos were a generous couple. They made donations to a number of causes: the Democratic Party, gay rights groups, AIDS and cancer programs. On Sept. 11, the mother of three children was on her way to visit her son Mark Anthony. She was on the first plane that slammed into the towers. (Henry Leutwyler / Contour by Getty Images for stern Magazine) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Barbara Spence, Maynard’s wife

    In April 2002, recovery workers found the first body parts belonging to Maynard Spence, pieces of organs and fragments of his bones. His wife, Barbara, didn't want to see them. Together with Maynard’s daughters from his first marriage, Barbara decided to cremate everything. She spread Maynard's ashes over his favorite mountain in North Carolina. Barbara wanted to remember Maynard as this tall man with a vibrant laugh, as the man who penned her short love letters. Yet, today the most important love note is the one she herself wrote, scribbled on one of those notepads lying around in hotels. Maynard, from Atlanta, had this note on him when he visited the New York branch of the insurance company he worked for. “Hey Lover Boy – hope you have a wonderful day! I’ll be thinking of you! Love Babs.” Four years ago, she got a tattoo above her heart. It features a yellow rose, a hummingbird and the date 9/11, and will forever connect her to Maynard. (Henry Leutwyler / Contour by Getty Images for stern Magazine) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Alison Crowther, Welles’ mother

    He was the man with the red bandanna, an accessory he had adopted from his grandfather. He wore the bandanna on this morning at the Trade Center, high above the southern tip of Manhattan. Welles Crowther survived the initial impact of the plane. Shortly thereafter, he called his father. It was the last that was heard from him. Months later, his mother, Alison, read an article in which witnesses recounted how they were rescued from a smoky stairwell by a man whose nose and mouth were covered by a red bandanna. Six months after the attack, rescue workers found Welles’ body under a shattered staircase. The time on his wristwatch, a Citizen Chronograph WR 200, had stopped at 2:25. The red bandanna was not recovered.

    Captions by Giuseppe di Grazia and Martin Knobbe / stern Magazine
    Translation by Anuschka Tomat (Henry Leutwyler / Contour by Getty Images for stern Magazine) Back to slideshow navigation
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