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US marks 9/11 anniversary with resolve, tears and hope

Americans commemorated 9/11 on Monday with tear-streaked tributes, a presidential warning to terrorists and appeals from victims’ relatives for unity and hope 16 years after the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

The Tribute in Light rises above the lower Manhattan skyline, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017, in New York. The two blue pillars of light provide a visual reminder of how the Twin Towers, destroyed in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, once stood above the city skyline. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Looking out at the solemn crowd at ground zero, Debra Epps said she views every day as time to do something to ensure that her brother, Christopher Epps, and thousands of others didn’t die in vain.

“What I can say today is that I don’t live my life in complacency,” she said. “I stand in solidarity that this world will make a change for the better.”

A man stands at the edge of a waterfall pool at ground zero during a ceremony on the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in New York, Monday, Sept. 11, 2017. Holding photos and reading names of loved ones lost 16 years ago, 9/11 victims’ relatives marked the anniversary of the attacks with a solemn and personal ceremony. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Thousands of family members, survivors, rescuers and others gathered for the hourslong reading of victims’ names at the World Trade Center, while President Donald Trump spoke at the Pentagon and Vice President Mike Pence addressed an observance at the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

A woman wipes away tears as she holds up a picture during a ceremony at ground zero in New York, Monday, Sept. 11, 2017. Holding photos and reading names of loved ones lost 16 years ago, 9/11 victims’ relatives marked the anniversary of the attacks at ground zero with a solemn and personal ceremony. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Elsewhere, thousands of Americans marked the anniversary with service projects. Volunteer Hillary O’Neill, 16, had her own connection to 9/11: It’s her birthdate.

“I always feel a sense of responsibility to give back on the day,” O’Neill, of Norwalk, Connecticut, said as she packed up meals in New York City for needy local people and hurricane victims in Texas and Florida.

The podium awaits the arrival of President Donald Trump as a U.S. flag is unfurled at the Pentagon on the 16th anniversary of the September 11th attacks Monday, Sept. 11, 2017. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Nearly 3,000 people were killed when planes hijacked by terrorists hit the trade center, the Pentagon and a field near Shanksville on Sept. 11, 2001, hurling America into a new consciousness of the threat of global terrorism.

A visitor touches the map of the Flight 93 Memorial grounds as they walk in to the site’s 9/11 16th anniversary ceremony on Monday, Sept. 11, 2017 in Shanksville, Pa.(Stephanie Strasburg/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)

Reflecting on a tragedy that still feels immediate to them, victims’ relatives thanked first responders and the military, worried for people affected by Hurricane Irma as it continued its destructive path as a tropical storm and pleaded for a return to the sense of cohesiveness that followed the attacks.

Everett Lata, left, 13, and his sister Ellie, right, 12, of Saylorsburg, Pa., place flowers by the name of their great-grandmother Hilda Marcin along the Wall of Names on Monday, Sept. 11, 2017 at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa. “It’s truly something special,” said Everett of visiting the site. “I hope that nothing like this would ever happen again,” said Ellie. (Stephanie Strasburg/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)

“Our country came together that day. And it did not matter what color you were or where you were from,” said a tearful Magaly Lemagne, who lost her brother, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey police officer David Lemagne. She implored people to “stop for a moment and remember all the people who gave their lives that day.

A park ranger stands in front of the Wall of Names at the United Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa., Saturday, Sept. 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Fred Vuich)

“Maybe then we can put away our disagreements and become one country again,” she said.

Trump, a native New Yorker observing the anniversary for the first time as the country’s leader, assured victims’ families that “our entire nation grieves with you” and issued stern words to extremists.

Candles in memory of the passengers and crew of United Flight 93, are carried to the Wall of Names at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa., Saturday, Sept. 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Fred Vuich)

“America cannot be intimidated, and those who try will join a long list of vanquished enemies who dared test our mettle,” the Republican president said as he spoke at the Pentagon after observing a moment of silence at the White House.

When America is united, “no force on earth can break us apart,” he said.

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump stand for a moment of silence to mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, on the South Lawn of the White House, Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

At the Flight 93 National Memorial, Pence said the passengers who revolted against hijackers might well have saved his own life.

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump stand for a moment of silence to mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, on the South Lawn of the White House, Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The Republican vice president was a member of Congress on 9/11, and the Capitol was a possible target of the terrorist piloting Flight 93. Instead, it crashed near Shanksville after the passengers took action. Thirty-three passengers and seven crew members were killed.

President Donald Trump speaks during a ceremony to mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, at the Pentagon. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

At the United Nations, some ambassadors noted the anniversary as the Security Council unanimously approved new sanctions against North Korea in response to its Sept. 3 test of what Pyongyang said was a hydrogen bomb

A man pays his respects at the Wall of Names at the United Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa., Saturday, Sept. 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Fred Vuich)

“We will never forget the victims of Sept. 11, and we will never forget the lesson that those who have evil intentions must be confronted,” U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said.

Paul Murdoch, Architect, Flight 93 National Memorial listens to the “Soundbraking” after ringing the C-4 chime at the future site of the Tower of Voices Flight 93 National Memorial, Shanksville, Pa. Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017. (Todd Berkey/The Tribune-Democrat via AP)

At dusk, the annual “Tribute in Light” art installation beamed two giant towers of light into the lower Manhattan skyline as a visual memorial to those who perished in the terror attack.

The ceremony on the National September 11 Memorial & Museum plaza in New York strives to be apolitical, allowing politicians to attend but not to speak. Yet last year’s 15th anniversary ceremony became entangled in the presidential campaign when Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton left abruptly, stumbled into a van and ultimately revealed she’d been diagnosed days earlier with pneumonia.

The Tribute in Light rises above the lower Manhattan skyline, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017, in New York. The two blue pillars of light provide a visual reminder of how the Twin Towers, destroyed in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, once stood above the city skyline. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

This year, the focus remained on the names read out beneath the waterfall pools and lines of trees.

While many Americans may no longer interrupt their days to observe the 9/11 anniversary, the ceremony remains a touchstone for many victims’ families and friends.

“I’ll come every year for the rest of my life,” said Rob Fazio, who lost his father, Ronald Fazio. “It’s where I get my strength.”

This undated artist rendering provided by bioLINIA and Paul Murdoch Architects via that National Park Service shows a depiction of the completed Tower of Voices that will be part of the Flight 93 National Memorial.  (bioLINIA and Paul Murdoch Architects via AP)

After 15 years of anniversaries, the reading of names, moments of silence and tolling bells have become rituals, but each ceremony takes on personal touches. Name-readers Monday gave updates on family graduations and marriages and remembered loved ones’ flair for surfing or drawing on coffee-shop napkins.

The National September 11 Memorial and Museum are set for a memorial service, Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, in New York. . (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

A few never even got to know the relatives they lost on Sept. 11, 2001.

“I wish more than anything that I could have met you,” Ruth Daly said after reading names in remembrance of her slain grandmother and namesake, Ruth Lapin.

The Tribute in Light rises above the lower Manhattan skyline, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017, in New York.  (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Delaney Colaio read names in honor of the three relatives she lost: her father, Mark Joseph Colaio, and her uncles, Stephen Colaio and Thomas Pedicini. Just a toddler on 9/11, she is now making a documentary about the children who lost parents in the attacks.

“I stand here as a reminder to the other families of 9/11 and to the world,” she said, “that no matter how dark moments of life can get, there is light ahead if you just choose hope.”