US marks 15th anniversary of 9/11 attacks

US-PRESIDENT-OBAMA-ATTENDS-REMEMBRANCE-CEREMONY-FOR-15TH-ANNIVER People visit the Pentagon's 9/11 Memorial Park in Arlington | AFP

The US marked the 15th anniversary of 9/11 on Sunday, with a moment of silence marking the instant when a hijacked plane crashed and revealed that the deadliest terror attack on American soil was underway.

At ground zero, hundreds of victims' relatives and dignitaries gathered to hear the reading the names of the nearly 3,000 people killed under an overcast sky that shrouded the 1,776-foot-tall top of One World Trade Centre, the centrepiece of the rebuilt site.

"It doesn't get easier. The grief never goes away. You don't move forward it always stays with you," said Tom Acquaviva, of Wayne, New Jersey, who lost his son Paul Acquaviva.

President Barack Obama was scheduled to speak at an observance at the Pentagon. Hundreds of people also were expected at a ceremony at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Nearly 3,000 people died when hijacked planes slammed into the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon and a field near Shanksville on September 11, 2001. It was the deadliest terror attack on American soil.

The 15th anniversary arrives in a country caught up in a combustible political campaign, but the nation tries to put partisan politics on hold on the anniversary. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican rival Donald Trump both were at the anniversary ceremony at the World Trade Centre. Neither candidate was expected to make public remarks at a ceremony where politicians have been allowed to attend, but not speak, since 2011.

Clinton and Trump also followed a custom of halting television ads for the day.

While ground zero and the nation around it are forever marked but greatly changed since 9/11, the anniversary ceremony itself has become one of the constants in how America remembers the attacks after 15 years.

Organisers planned some additional music and readings today to mark the milestone year. But they were keeping close to what are now traditions: moments of silence and tolling bells, an apolitical atmosphere and the hourslong reading of the names of the dead.

"This idea of physical transformation is so real here," September 11 memorial President Joe Daniels said this week. But on this September 11 itself, "bringing the focus back to why we did all this which is to honour those that were lost is something very intentional."

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said flags will fly at half-staff on state buildings for the nearly 3,000 individuals who lost their lives in the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Two planes crashed into World Trade Centre, leaving 2,753 dead. A third hit the Pentagon in Washington, killing 184, and 40 more died after a fourth plane headed for Washington crashed into a field in Pennsylvania after passengers overpowered the hijackers.

Several Indians working in the twin towers and those in the area were among the victims. New Jersey resident Arjan Mirpuri lost his 30-year old son Rajesh that fateful day. Mirpuri had said his son did not even work at the World Trade Centre but had gone there that day to attend a trade show.

"Before that day, Rajesh had never gone to the WTC. 9/11 became the most unfortunate day of our lives," Mirupri had said.

The family and friends of 25-year-old Neil Shastri established a foundation in his name and to honour his life, which was taken away in the attacks. The Foundation said on its website that its mission is to continue Shastri's legacy by engaging in various philanthropic endeavours that reflect his generous spirit and passion for learning.

"Neil was taken from his wife, parents, brothers, and friends much too early and a left a void that will never be filled. Through the Neil G Shastri Foundation, Neil's family and friends hope that they are honouring his memory by touching a few lives and doing some good in ways that Neil was never able to do," the foundation said.

Ceremonies will be held across the US to mark the 15th anniversary of the attacks that changed the country forever. US President Barack Obama had said in May 2011 that "justice has been done" to "those families who lost loved ones to al Qaeda's terror" 10 years after the 9/11 attacks when US Navy Seals carried out a successful operation to kill the attacks mastermind Osama Bin Laden in a house in Pakistan.

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