Russia's 9/11 victims remembered
It's six years since 21-year-old Vlad Savinkin died in the attacks of 9/11. His parents hold on to each precious memory of their only son. His clean clothes remain folded in the chest of drawers, his college diploma is proudly displayed, and a pile of his outdated mail remains sealed.
Valentina Savinkin clutches the ‘Dolce and Gabbana’ shower gel her son last used in 2001.
“Every day I can smell my son because of this perfume,” the mother says.
“He was very patient. He was very intellectual, he was very gentle,” says Valeriy Savinkin remembering his son.
Vlad was 16 when his family left Odessa for what they hoped would be a safer and more prosperous life in America. Responsible and driven, he graduated from university at 21, landing an accounting position at a prestigious financial firm.
Vlad was working on the 101st floor of the World Trade Center’s North tower on September 11 when a plane crashed into the building at 8:46 AM. He was one of at least 26 Russian victims killed in the terror attacks.
“One by one, we met other families, and we realised that it was much easier to communicate with them than with any other people,” Valery Savinkin confessed.
Lara McCoy, Deputy Editor of Russia Profile magazine
People are still afraid. I think that sort of fear still exists even now and it is hard to say if the measures (taken) have been effective or not because obviously there have been no other major terrorist attacks in the U.S. So how much we are going to give up, in terms of freedom, to be secure I think is still the question.
Bound by grief, sadness, and heritage, Russian immigrants who lost loved ones came together and over a period of time strangers became friends. United in the face of tragedy, this support system grew stronger, eventually forming what’s known as the ‘September 11 Family Group’.
“Sometimes when I'm really ready to cry I just call someone from the families and we just talk, and it gets easier. We are so close it's like one family. We start celebrating each others’ birthdays, we get together,” said Roman Gersberg.
He lost his daughter Marina on 9/11. The Russian beauty was 25 years old, and only one week into her job at the same firm as Vlad. Although they never got the chance to know each other their fathers co-founded the ‘September 11 Family Group’. Each year members gather for an anniversary ceremony in the Memorial Square, which they financed and constructed. A granite plaque bears the names of 18 Russian 9/11 victims.
On Sunday Russians in mourning lit candles, shed tears, and vowed to never forget the tragic events that took place six years ago.
“It doesn't matter how much time passes, you still have that big stone in your heart, but the only thing happens is that as time passes by is that you learn to live with this,” says Roman Gersberg.
Members of the ‘September 11 Family Group’ say they've learned to live with their broken hearts. While many families were torn apart six years ago, a community came together. These Russians share a great sadness, but they also share a lifelong commitment to honour the sons, daughters, husbands and wives who died on that fateful day.
The sixth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks has also been commemorated in Russia's capital, Moscow.
An Orthodox service was held at the Church of St. Catherine the Martyr in Moscow.
The service emphasised the importance of links between faiths and the healing power of religion for families of the victims of terrorism. Victims of other terror acts such as Beslan and the London bombings were also remembered.
A message from Russia's International Affairs Minister was also read out during the service. He used the example of Beslan to show how Russia empathised with terrorism victims in the U.S.
In New York, thousands of mourners remembered the victims of the 9/11 attacks in Lower Manhattan. For the first time in six years, September 11 fell on a Tuesday, the same day the planes flew into the buildings.
This year the memorial service was held in nearby Zuccotti Park, because Ground Zero is now a building site.
There were four moments of silence during the four-hour ceremony: two marking the times when the planes hit the towers of the World Trade Center and two to signify the times when the buildings collapsed.
This year firefighters, police officers and emergency workers were chosen to read the names of all 2,750 victims. Many who worked in those services were killed in the attack.
Both Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg and his predecessor Rudy Giuliani addressed the crowd.
“On that day, we felt isolated, but not for long, and not from each other. New Yorkers rushed to the site, not knowing which place was safe or if there was more danger ahead. They weren’t sure of anything except that they had to be here,” said Mr Bloomberg.
“It was a day with no answers, but with an unending line of those who came forward to try to help one another,” noted Mr Giuliani.
Memorial services have also taken place at the Pentagon, honouring the 184 victims killed when the third hijacked plane crashed into the government building, and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where they were remembering the 40 passengers and crew members who died when hijackers took over the fourth plane that would later crash in the field.