Washington, Sept. 11: Americans woke up to the third anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon with a warning from the US Mint that crooks were exploiting the tragedy by selling fake coins commemorating the anniversary.
The Mint, which is the sole authority under law to coin US money, including commemorative coins, said yesterday that a company called National Collectors Mint Inc. was marketing '2004 'Freedom Tower' Silver Dollar' coins to the public.
The company claims on its website and in advertisements that these coins have been minted using silver from Ground Zero, the site of what was the World Trade Center. 'When the twin towers fell on September 11, 2001, a bank vault full of .999 Pure Silver bars was buried under hundreds of tons of debris,' says an announcement by the company aimed at unsuspecting customers.
'After months of salvage work, many of the bars were found. Now, the same silver that was reclaimed from the destruction has been used to create the magnificent '2004 'Freedom Tower' Silver Dollar'. These fake one-dollar coins have been selling like hot cakes and the issue price has been fixed at $39 per coin.
Specially for the anniversary, the company has introduced a special price of $23.45 with an additional $3.50 for a display case. One side of the coin has an image of the World Trade Center and the inscription 'one dollar'. The obverse shows the Freedom Tower that is to be built on the site where the twin towers once stood.
A press release by the US Mint said the National Collectors Mint, which is engaged in the scam, has no connections to the US government and is marketing the coins as a product of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, a US possession which does not have the authority to mint its own money. The press release said these coins may confuse the public because they bear the inscription 'In God We Trust' which the US Congress requires on all American coins, and the inscription 'one dollar'.
It said 'the collectibles market is brimming with tokens, medallions, mementos and similar products that look like genuine US coins. However, those who purchase such items should be aware that such products are not actually US coins'.
This scam aside, the anniversary was observed across the US with solemnity, albeit on a lower key compared to the two previous years.
Absent this year were examples of demonstrative display of patriotism, sometimes bordering on jingoism, and a frenzy created on television, especially the more conservative channels which thrive on xenophobia.
This absence is partly explained by the US presidential election campaign. Republicans have been accused in recent weeks of exploiting the September 11 tragedy for partisan political purposes, especially during the party's recent national convention in New York. In Washington, the official ceremonies began with a prayer service and remembrance at St. John's Episcopal Church near the White House attended by President George W. Bush and the first lady.
Bush did not speak at the service or thereafter to reporters as they left. The President's chief adviser on counter-terrorism, Fran Townsend, read passages from the Bible during the service.
At 8.46 am, the precise moment when a plane hit the north tower of the World Trade Center, Bush and his wife observed a minute's silence on the South Lawn of the White House in the company of presidential staff, family members of people killed in the September 11 attacks and members of the US Congress.
He later addressed the nation on radio from the Oval Office, departing from his weekly practice on Saturdays of taping his speech. It was only the second time in his presidency that Bush has delivered a live radio address. The event was attended by relatives of victims of the attacks and firefighters who took part in the salvage operations at the Pentagon.
On Ground Zero, relatives of those killed at the World Trade Center slowly read the names of the victims and observed silence on two occasions that two planes hit the twin towers. At the Arlington National Cemetery, a minute's silence was observed at 9.37 am, when a plane hit the Pentagon.