O'FALLON, Mo. -- Two years to the day after terrorist-hijacked jetliners slammed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field, Missourians in their own ways stoically paused Thursday in memory of the thousands killed in the attacks.
In the St. Louis suburb of O'Fallon, a few hundred people turned out for the dedication of a monument that brings the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, a bit closer to home -- 13 tons of rusty steel salvaged from the World Trade Center itself, along with a 6-foot granite marker.
"To those who have fallen, to those who are called, to those who are heroes, who sacrificed all," read the "The Spirit of Freedom" monument, on a hill just off of Interstate 64. "Look not up to buildings, shattered glass and steel walls, it is the spirit of freedom that makes US stand tall."
During the 30-minute ceremony, a color guard of firefighters and police raised a huge U.S. flag at the site, and a military cadet sang the national anthem. There was a 21-gun salute, followed by a bugler's playing the traditional, mournful "Taps." A "moment of sirens" preceded a moment of silence.
Some in the crowd dabbed away tears during the observance, during which O'Fallon Mayor Paul Renaud pointed to the salvaged steel as heroic, holding up the World Trade Center's twin towers long enough for thousands to scramble to safety.
"In my eyes, this steel represents our country's strength," prone to bend but not break, Renaud said, his voice cracking at times with emotion.
Pat Lewis nodded, clutching a small American flag and carnation while wearing a small U.S. flag pin her late mother wore every Independence Day. Attending the anniversary ceremony, the 73-year-old woman said, was a must.
"I couldn't lay in bed this morning and do nothing," said the O'Fallon woman, whose husband -- a volunteer firefighter -- died three decades ago. "I felt it was my patriotic duty to pay tribute to all the firefighters (killed in the World Trade Center attack). The least I can do is get up and say, 'Thank you.'
"Today," she said, "I brought my camera and my heart."