As the first anniversary of one of the most devastating events on U.S. soil, it is a day whose meaning is still being discovered. Ceremonies, moments of silence and other observances will be ubiquitous, but most Americans will go to work and school as usual.
The first anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor - a day often compared to Sept. 11 - was marked with the tolling of bells, raising of flags and special history classes in public schools. But President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had declared that the date would "live in infamy," spent the anniversary working quietly in the White House.
President Bush, by contrast, will observe the anniversary of the terrorist attacks by visiting the three sites where airplanes crashed a year earlier. In December, he signed legislation giving the anniversary an official name: Patriot Day.
Bush will begin his day at the Pentagon, where an hourlong closed ceremony will feature a moment of silence at 9:37 a.m., the time that American Airlines Flight 77 struck the west side of the building. At the site where the World Trade Center's twin towers once stood, the names of those who died will be recited. Family and friends of those killed on United Flight 93 will gather for a public ceremony at the field near Shanksville, Pa., where that plane went down.
Across the nation, the International Association of Fire Chiefs has suggested that church and fire station bells toll at 10:05 a.m. and 10:28 a.m., the times the towers collapsed. A Seattle concert-goer's brainstorm has led to plans for a "Rolling Requiem" - performances of Mozart's Requiem across the United States and in almost every international time zone at 8:46 a.m., the time the first plane hit its mark.
In Albuquerque, N.M., two beams from the World Trade Center will be dedicated for display in a church bell tower. In Colorado Springs, Colo., citizens will make a commemorative piece of art. In Maryland, the town of Gaithersburg will dedicate "Inspiration Park" in memory of the victims. In Baltimore, people can join a downtown memorial service, take part in a charity run, perform volunteer work or observe a "peace path" along Charles Street.
But Sept. 11 will also, in some respects, be a normal day. Most companies are not offering a special day off, though some are giving employees time to volunteer. The Orioles will play their nemesis, the New York Yankees, in the Bronx that night.
Kristin Bowl, a spokeswoman for the Society for Human Resource Management in Alexandria, Va., said employers have struggled with how to handle the anniversary.
Many have decided to acknowledge the day - with moments of silence, patriotic buttons and flags at half-staff. But businesses have been mindful of striking the right tone, balancing sensitivity with normality, Bowl said.
"I think that most organizations, profit and nonprofit, feel that one of the most important things our country can do is continue to be strong, continue doing our jobs," she said.
That will be the approach at the Pentagon, whose 23,000 employees are expected to show up or use time off they have earned, said Jim Turner, a spokesman for the Defense Department.
For Turner, who was working when the plane hit and spent much of the next 24 hours briefing the press, coming to work on the anniversary will be "an honor," he said. "This is just something that would redouble my efforts, personally speaking."
Several representatives of local companies spoke of the need to be "respectful" and "low-key" in their observances. "A lot of people want to kind of remember it in their own way," said Kirstie Durr, a Comcast cable company spokeswoman.
At the spice manufacturer McCormick & Co., flags at U.S. sites will fly at half-staff, and employees will be offered time for a "brief, silent remembrance." American flags will fly from Comcast trucks in Baltimore, Howard and Harford counties, and some employees will receive free copies of the Bruce Springsteen CD that pays tribute to victims. Employees of some large companies can expect to hear the thoughts of their bosses on the anniversary, by voice mail or e-mail.
Allfirst Bank offices and branches will observe a moment of silence at 9 a.m. and will display signs with flags and the words "We remember" - with no Allfirst logo, said spokesman Phil Hosmer.