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September 10, 2011

France Remembers 2001 Terror Attacks on the United States

by Lisa Bryant

Paris joined capitals around the world on Sunday to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, with enormous replicas of the World Trade Center's twin towers.  The ceremony marked a warmth in bilateral relations that had cooled in the aftermath of 2001 attacks.

Listening to strains of American gospel music, hundreds of French gathered in the pouring rain across from the Eiffel Towel to pay tribute to those that died in the terrorist attacks.  Huge French and American flags fluttered under skies that slowly turned cleared.

The ceremony was sponsored by The French Will Never Forget association.  Patrick du Tertre is one of the group's leaders. "Especially, we wanted to tell the Americans the French will never forget 9/11 also.  We want to be with you.  We want to express our sympathy; we want to express our friendship and our condolences," he said.

The ceremony was one of several events in Paris, marking the September 11, 2001 attacks.  French and American dignitaries attended mass at Notre Dame Cathedral and a wreath laying ceremony in another part of the city.

Others in Paris remembered the terrorist attacks in their own way.  On Rue de Rivoli, one of the city's major boulevards, 21-year-old Marguerite Romsan said she felt closer to Americans after spending a year in the United States.  "I think it's very sad.  I think it's a very important day for American citizens and a lot of people are with them today and thinking about what happened," she said.

France's former president Jacques Chirac was the first foreign leader to visit New York and Washington after the 2001 attacks.  At the time, France's Le Monde newspaper ran the  headline:  "We are all Americans."  But relations between Paris and Washington soon cooled over the U.S.-led war in Iraq, which France opposed.  Franco-American ties have improved under current French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Twenty-eight-year-old Patrick Molayi said he was saddened by of all those who died in the attacks, which also included French citizens.  But he said he does not think the world has learned a lesson.

Molayi said that although al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, who masterminded the 2001 attacks, is dead, terrorism remains in the world.  Others are more hopeful.  But in France, as in the United States, many people still are trying to make sense of the September 11 attacks.