New York, 11 September 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Americans have started their widespread day of ceremonies commemorating the anniversary of the terrorist attacks against the United States last 11 September. One year ago, Arab hijackers commandeered four passenger jets that were crashed into the World Trade Center towers in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, and a field in Pennsylvania. More than 3,000 people died.
At midnight in New York, firefighters and police officers -- accompanied by bagpipers and drummers -- began marching through the city.
U.S. President George W. Bush will attend ceremonies in the areas where the planes crashed and make a speech to the nation, which was placed on heightened alert because of intelligence suggesting terrorist attacks could be timed to coincide with the anniversary.
In the speech, Bush will also discuss new terrorist threats. With Bush's approval, the U.S. Justice Department yesterday raised the nation's warning level to orange, the second-highest, signaling a high risk of attack.
Authorities said the move stemmed from intelligence suggesting attacks -- possibly overseas against American targets -- could be timed to coincide with the anniversary.
Bush said yesterday during a visit to the Afghan Embassy in Washington: "The threats that we have heard recently remind us of the patterns of threats we heard prior to September 11."
Bush got a sympathy call yesterday from Russian President Vladimir Putin. The White House says Bush told the Russian leader the gesture meant a lot to him. Putin was the first leader to call the president last 11 September.
In another sign of precaution, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney was taken to a secure, undisclosed location. He canceled a meeting with the president of Bulgaria and called off plans last night to speak before a foreign policy group.