On a sunny Tuesday morning, with weather reminiscent of a harrowing day 11 years ago, dozens of people surrounded the 9/11 Memorial of Maryland at the Inner Harbor, watching in silence as the shadows from Baltimore's World Trade Center moved across the monument.
After the speeches and somber fanfare that marked the 10th anniversary of the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil, this year's 9/11 events began with a more subdued — but no less emotional — observance.
Architects sited Maryland's monument so the towering building would act like a sundial. Every Sept. 11, the shadows align with notches in the marble base that note the exact times of key events in that fateful two-hour time span. The names of the 69 Marylanders lost that day are carved into the easternmost point of the memorial.
"This absolutely reminds us how one day changed all our lives," said David Conner, who was a pilot, waiting for a flight at Newark International Airport, 11 years ago. He and his wife, Nancy, were visiting Baltimore Tuesday from their home in Milford, N.J.
Across the Baltimore area, organized and informal tributes were held to mark the anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
In Harford County, volunteer firefighters and community groups scheduled a flag-waving tribute on the Route 152 overpass at Interstate 95. In Parkville, 2,977 flags were planted along Putty Hill Road — one for each person who died in the attacks.
Anne Arundel County scheduled a moment of silence near its 9/11 memorial. And Baltimore County public safety employees planned to sound their horns twice, timed to commemorate each attack on New York's World Trade Center, then follow with a moment of silence.
At the memorial in Baltimore, a 22-foot-long piece of mangled steel — part of the columns salvaged from the New York World Trade Center's north tower — sits atop the white marble base. Three pieces of limestone from the Pentagon and three granite slabs from Shanksville, Pa., also figure into the piece that honors Marylanders who died at all three sites.
Their names remain drenched in sunlight until after 10:30 a.m.
"What better way to capture the event than to use the sun. And keeping those names in the light is most important," said Doug Bothner, architect for the memorial project.
Several visitors left flowers and miniature American flags. Many snapped photos or shot video. Several placed a hand on the stone for a few minutes and prayed. A respectful silence prevailed.
"This is as close as I can get to the remnants and the memories," said Raphael Aquino, a 38-year-old software engineer. "I have to be here today. This monument is not just impressive. It is important so that our generation won't forget."
Sean Marshal, an attorney, placed the palm of his hand on the stone for several minutes and then reached into the steel beams and bowed his head.
"They have really incorporated all the elements of what happened that day," he said. "Every year, we have to pay tribute to all the people who perished."
The Maryland State Arts Council, which organized the $1.5 million project and unveiled it on the 10th anniversary, has also put together a 9/11 exhibit 27 floors up, the top level of Baltimore's World Trade Center. The names of everyone who died on 9/11 are etched into the window panes, stretching along the horizon from Catonsville to Towson to Essex.
"I've had people break down, crying," said Amy Carrick, who supervises the exhibit, which has grown in attendance since it opened a year ago, for the Baltimore Office of Promotions and Arts.
In Glen Burnie, a steady stream of police officers and firefighters visited Mission BBQ, where they chowed down on free sandwiches offered as a thank-you from the business, whose hallmark is helping first responders and members of the military.
The informality and talk — punctuated by the singing of the national anthem at noon to rousing cheers against a backdrop of an American flag hanging from extended Anne Arundel County fire truck ladders — appealed to many of those who stopped by.
"We've had so many ceremonies for so many years," said Rod Devilbiss, a retired Baltimore deputy fire chief. He said the informal gathering "takes the edge off" the somber remembrance of the loss of so many lives, especially among the men and women in uniform on Sept. 11, 2001.
"The first responders prefer it that way. they don't want to make it about pomp and circumstance. They want to make it about community support for what they do," said O'Brien Atkinson, president of Anne Arundel County's largest police union.
Baltimore Sun reporter Andrea Siegel contributed to this article.