The Minnesota Police Pipe Band's rendition of Amazing Grace punctuated an already melancholy atmosphere in the Capitol Rotunda. The hour-long event, called Minnesota Remembers, included remarks from two siblings of 9/11 victims.
Gordy Aamoth, Jr., of Wayzata was an investment banker killed in the World Trade Center. His brother, Erik Aamoth, says he'll always miss Gordy.
"Today marks the anniversary of the worst day in my family's history," he said. "We've grieved and mourned for five years. We've also learned to appreciate each other and appreciate each day we have together. The tragedy has brought us closer together as a family. I hope the memories of September 11th inspire people to come closer together as a community."
The ceremony included two moments of silence at the times five years ago when terrorists crashed the hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center.
Judy Schneider of St. Paul lost her brother, Gary Koechler, when the twin towers collapsed. Schneider remembered his help when her family was uprooted by a move in 2001.
"That time was a little bit crazy for me, and Gary would call me every Tuesday, just to check in and make sure that I was OK. He'd call, we'd chat a little bit and he'd ask me how I was doing and, you know, just have a little conversation. It was nice to feel the support from him. September 11, 2001, was a Tuesday. I never got my call that day," she said.
Another Minnesota victim remembered during the ceremony was Thomas Burnett Jr. The Bloomington native died when United Airlines flight 93 crashed in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, southeast of Pittsburgh. Burnett and other passengers are credited with fighting the hijackers and preventing them from reaching their intended target.
Burnett's parents, who were in Pennsylvania for a memorial service, asked Congressman Jim Ramstad to speak on their behalf.
"His courage and his sacrifice foiled the hijackers plans of mass destruction. Tom Burnett's heroism saved the United States Capitol and countless lives," Ramstad said.
Other speakers at the ceremony included Col. Kevin Gerdes of the Minnesota National Guard and Hennepin County Sheriff Pat McGowan. Gov. Tim Pawlenty read from Scripture, reminding the audience not to overcome "evil with evil, but evil with good." "It's a day of remembrance. It's a day of making sure that the memory of the individuals who were lost are not forgotten. But also to make sure that the principles and the values that they lived by and that they stood for are also reaffirmed," he said.
Outside the Capitol there were dozens of ambulances, fire trucks and other emergency response vehicles from area law enforcement agencies. State officials said most of the specialized vehicles were obtained in the past five years through federal Homeland Security grants.