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Thursday, September 12, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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U.S. troops pause for moment of silence

The Associated Press

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — In Afghanistan's rugged mountains and rocky deserts, American service men and women paused in their anti-terrorism fight yesterday and stood in silence to honor those who died in the Sept. 11 attacks.

The memorials took place in the country which — apart from the United States — was most affected by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

"There is no other place I would want to be," Spc. Daryl Appling said after a memorial ceremony at Kandahar Air Base in southern Afghanistan.

At Bagram Air Base, the U.S. military headquarters north of Kabul, the Afghan capital, troops stood in tan fatigues, their heads bowed, in a 20-minute ceremony led by Lt. Gen. Dan McNeill, commander of coalition forces.

In Bagram, troops were reminded of the danger of their mission. Early yesterday, a gunman fired at a guard tower on the northwestern edge of the base. There were no U.S. casualties, but the Americans returned fire and wounded the gunman.

In southeast Afghanistan, one of the main fronts in the hunt for al-Qaida and Taliban remnants, two rockets were fired at the airport in Khost, where U.S. troops are based.

In Bamiyan, a mountainous province of central Afghanistan, U.S. special-forces troops awoke before dawn to raise the Stars and Stripes. One soldier sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" as the men saluted the flag as it fluttered over the valley where giant Buddha statues stood for 15 centuries before they were destroyed by the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban regime last year.

As a bugler played taps, soldiers and diplomats in Kabul unveiled the site where a piece of the toppled World Trade Center has been buried at the U.S. Embassy.

The piece of the World Trade Center was brought here by Marine Lt. Kyle Aldrich, a 27-year-old New Yorker who had worked on Wall Street and lost friends in the attacks on the twin towers.

Aldrich had worked at Salomon Smith Barney until January last year, when he resigned to join the Marines. Many of his friends had worked at Cantor Fitzgerald and Morgan Stanley. Some died and many more escaped.

At Kandahar, U.S. troops from the Army and Air Force rushed to finish their daily tasks to make time for the ceremony, which drew about 500 people.

Lt. Nicole Casanassima, 23, said the ceremony had special meaning because she was a New York native. "I'm glad I'm here," she said. "I feel like I'm doing something to help."

Apart from the anniversary ceremonies, it was business as usual for soldiers.

"Pursuing the war on the anniversary of the attack is what makes today a big day," said Lt. Col. Tim Strasburger, an A-10 jet pilot permanently based at Pope Air Force Base outside Fayetteville, N.C. "There isn't a place I'd rather be or a job I'd rather be doing."

The A-10s are used to provide air cover for ground troops.

About a mile along the flight line, more than 100 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division practiced getting on and off the back of a Chinook helicopter.

"A lot of us are thinking about it, but it's really just like any other day," said Pvt. Sean Bargmann, a 23-year-old from Gilman, Ill. "We've got to act like anything could happen today, because it could — look at what happened this morning," he said, referring to the sniper shots fired on the base guard post.

Some Air Force personnel marked the day with an old tradition: writing messages on bombs and missiles carried by the A-10s.

"In memory of 9-11-2001," read one message on a Maverick missile.

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