NEW YORK (AP) -- Two years after the prodigious horror and grief of Sept. 11, the small voices of children are at the center of its remembrance, charged with reading the names of loved ones killed in the attack and joining in song at ground zero.
Across the nation, the tolling of bells, the laying of wreaths and, in many places, moments with no words at all were planned for the second anniversary of the terrorist assault that killed more than 3,000 people.
In lower Manhattan, at the site where the World Trade Center once stood, 200 children whose relatives were among the 2,792 who died there were assigned the solemn, careful task of reading the names of the victims in a morning ceremony.
``I know I'm very proud of my children,'' said Lynn Morris, whose husband, Seth Allan Morris, died Sept. 11, 2001, and whose two children, 11-year-old Madilynn and 9-year-old Kyle, were to read names. ``It's amazing the strength that they have developed over the years.''
The footprint of the trade center's north tower was outlined by a 4-foot fence draped with banners bearing drawings and messages painted by children of the victims.
One was a simple red heart with the inscription: ``To my Dad, Steve Chucknick. Your in my heart forever. Love always, your son Steven.''
A chorus of children was also to sing ``America the Beautiful,'' The Star-Spangled Banner and a song called ``The Prayer.''
``We're not going to forget those that were lost, but we're also not going to let the terrorists beat us,'' Mayor Michael Bloomberg told WABC-TV before the service. ``We're going to be an example, I hope, to the country of how one can balance mourning with building for the future.''
In New York, some remembrances of Sept. 11 started early. A silent vigil was held Wednesday night at St. Paul's Chapel and continued into the early hours of Thursday morning.
The chapel, once in the shadow of the trade center, survived the neighboring complex's destruction and was temporarily converted into an all-purpose relief center for rescue workers.
Early Thursday, a handful of those who had volunteered two years ago gathered in and around the chapel. Inside, candles flickered at the front of the sanctuary and photographs of victims were spread upon the altar.
Lisa Heller, 34, an elementary school guidance counselor who said six of her friends died on Sept. 11, sat alone in a pew in the candlelit sanctuary for about an hour.
``It's a big loss,'' Heller said. She said healing began on the day of the attacks, but that ``it's been a long two years.''
The Rev. Julie Taylor, 33, who volunteered at the chapel two years ago, said healing is ``a process that's going to take our lifetime.''
``There's no getting over it, there's just getting through it,'' she said.
Other people gathered at the fence surrounding the trade center site, where more than two dozen floral arrangements had been placed. One woman, Delia Colon, prayed nearby, draped in an American flag.
``I was here last year on an all-night vigil,'' Colon said. ``I'm here this year on an all-night vigil. As long as I have breath, I will be here on an all-night vigil.''
At sunrise, about 200 people sat quietly at an ecumenical service at a small park not far from ground zero as a violin played and people read poems.
``I was hoping to get a couple minutes to face up to all the emotions of the day and to continue the process of trying to adjust,'' said Nathaniel Hupert, a 37-year-old public health researcher.
The ground zero ceremony, lasting about 3 1/2 hours, was to fall silent at the four moments when the terror peaked two years ago: the time of impact of each plane that flew into the trade center, and the time of each tower's collapse.
In Washington, President Bush planned to observe 8:46 a.m., the moment when American Airlines Flight 11 struck the trade center's north tower to begin the timed attacks, on the South Lawn of the White House.