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New York (CNN) — Nine Septembers have come and gone and yet, the many days that separate America now from a chilling day in its history did not dull remembrance Saturday.

Once again, the nation paused in silence to mark the times when hijacked jets crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and nearly 3,000 lives were lost in a matter of minutes.

But this year, a national debate over a proposed Islamic center near ground zero hovered over the day’s heart-stopping sorrow, and the president once again pleaded for the tolerance that has come to define America. Rallies in favor of and against the center were held later in the day.

At Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park, adjacent to the September 11 memorial site, thousands gathered, wanting to be as close as they could to hallowed ground.

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