The nearly 3,000 people who died when hijackers commandeered four passenger jets on Sept. 11, 2001, were remembered Thursday, as President...

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WASHINGTON — The nearly 3,000 people who died when hijackers commandeered four passenger jets on Sept. 11, 2001, were remembered Thursday, as President Bush dedicated the first national memorial to the victims and the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates came together in a moment of silence.

At the Pentagon, where 184 people were killed in the crash of American Airlines Flight 77, Bush recalled how the “doomed airliner plunged from the sky, split the rock and steel of this building and changed our world forever.”

His voice cracking, he said he hoped that future generations of Americans with “no living memory” of the attacks would conclude that, “We did not tire, we did not falter and we did not fail.

“A memorial can never replace what those of you mourning a loved one lost,” he told the audience, estimated at 15,000 people, that included many relatives and friends of those who died at the Pentagon that day. “We pray that you will find some comfort amid the peace of these grounds.”

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The memorial is composed of 184 benches, each with a name of a victim and illuminated by lighted reflection pools below.

In New York City, where 2,751 people were killed when American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 slammed into the World Trade Center towers, causing the buildings to collapse, presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama walked with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and McCain’s wife, Cindy, to a temporary memorial site. They laid roses at a reflecting pool at the base of Ground Zero and paused, bowing their heads in silence. They also greeted a group of survivors, first responders and relatives of the people who died. There were no speeches.

“Thanks, we’ll see ya,” McCain told Obama as the Democrat patted the Republican’s back and they shook hands and parted.

In honor of the anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil, both campaigns suspended television advertising for the day. The two men appeared Thursday night at Columbia University at a forum on national service.

Earlier, McCain spoke at a ceremony at a field near Shanksville, Pa., where United Airlines Flight 93, with 40 passengers and crew aboard, crashed after what investigators have concluded was an uprising against the four hijackers. The Arizona senator noted that the plane’s intended target was believed to be the U.S. Capitol.

“Hundreds, if not thousands, of people would have been at work in that building when that fateful moment occurred … They and, very possibly, I, owe our lives to” those passengers.

At the Pentagon, Doris Brunelle, who lost her brother, said she hoped the memorial reminds others of the sacrifice people made that day. “Freedom is not free,” she said while waiting to see her brother’s bench. “We should thank God when we wake up in the morning that we are still free and alive.”

Information from McClatchy Newspapers is included in this report.