What purpose do all these reminders serve?
The date marks so much more than the death of thousands, the destruction of buildings, and the loss of our precious, if naive, sense of security.
That dark time born of religious and political extremism also brought out all that is good and honorable in us.
The selflessness of first responders in Manhattan who refused to leave the doomed upper floors in the vain effort to save strangers trapped in the hellfire.
The kindness of neighbors who offered shelter and food, watched one another's children, and comforted the bereaved. The determination of volunteers who spent months sifting through lists and photographs, helping families search for traces of those lost in the chaos.
The bravery of the passengers, pilots, and flight attendants who risked their lives fighting the attackers, and who called home when all was lost to say goodbye to those they loved.
This weekend throughout the Philadelphia area, Americans will run races, ride motorcycles, and walk in silence. They will come together in churches, synagogues, and mosques. They will read poetry and enact plays, visit art exhibits, and listen to concerts. They will share stories and memories, honor, weep, and reflect.
Vice President Biden and former President George W. Bush will speak Saturday at the dedication of a memorial in Shanksville, on the site where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed. They will be joined by relatives and friends of those who died, as well as by Gov. Corbett, former first lady Laura Bush, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, and National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis. The musician Sarah McLachlan will perform.
On Sunday, President Obama will visit the site and lay a wreath at the memorial.
Mayor Nutter will speak at several events, including a public commemoration at Independence National Historical Park. At the National Constitution Center, Dana Priest, coauthor of the Washington Post investigative series "Top Secret America," will discuss the government surveillance programs that developed after 9/11. (A complete list of events appears in The Inquirer's Weekend section.)
In the background of all these formal addresses, choruses, and prayers, the voices from that day will echo across an increasing distance, but with as much power and poignancy as ever. Voices such as Peter Hanson's, in the last phone call he made to his father, Lee, from aboard United Airlines Flight 175.
"It's getting bad, Dad. A stewardess was stabbed. They seem to have knives and Mace. They said they have a bomb. . . . I don't think the pilot is flying the plane. I think we are going down. I think they intend to go to Chicago or someplace and fly into a building. Don't worry, Dad, if it happens, it'll be very fast. My God, my God."
In an attempt to harness the emotional force of the event, Congress three years ago designated 9/11 a day of service, like Martin Luther King's Birthday. As a result, 100 nonprofit organizations in the Philadelphia area will recruit volunteers for community projects.
"If we join forces as a community, this is not only a way of helping the mission of these organizations, but also results in bringing together people of all backgrounds and ages and breaking down barriers," said Todd Bernstein, president of Global Citizen, the organization leading the volunteer effort. "I think that's an important lesson out of 9/11. The importance of tolerance."
There will be politicians, undoubtedly, trying to score points on this occasion for causes ostensibly in the national interest. And just as surely, cynics and bigots who will baste in their own bile.
But mostly, across the region, the country, and the world, this weekend will be a time to stop and think about what we value most and to take measure of what is best in ourselves.
Through efforts small - laying wreaths in Media's Rose Tree Park - and large - opening the 9/11 memorial at ground zero - we will grieve our losses and celebrate our resilience.
Contact staff writer Melissa Dribben at 215-854-2590 or firstname.lastname@example.org.