SIKESTON -- An open chapel at the First United Methodist Church for prayer in remembrance of the Sept. 11, 2001 tragedy is just one of many anniversary observances planned in Missouri and across the country.
It has been two years since terrorist-hijacked planes toppled the World Trade Center and plowed into the Pentagon, and many Missourians planned to gather in towns big and small Thursday for anniversary observances in memory of the disaster's dead, including the open chapel from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church.
Make no mistake: Warren Nelson wants no part of it.
The 80-year-old Kirkwood man lost son David when a jetliner slammed into the World Trade Center's north tower that horrific Sept. 11, 2001, killing the married father of two children -- then ages 4 and 8 -- as he worked for a commodities brokerage on the skyscraper's 92nd floor.
Another year's passing hasn't dulled the pain, the elder Nelson laments. So on Thursday with wife Betty Lou, he fully expected to ''just sort of hunker down'' in their suburban St. Louis home of 42 years, quietly revisit the hundreds of cards they got in the wake of their son's death at age 50 and chat with their minister.
Their elusive goal, as always: Try not to think about the unthinkable.
''It's the sort of thing you never stop thinking about. We've coped, I guess. There's no other way to put it,'' Nelson said Wednesday. ''My policy for a lot of it, ever since that event, is that whenever anything comes on TV and they start showing the pictures, I flip the channel. I won't watch it.''
The anniversary, he says, ''sort of dredges it up,'' stealing his plans ''to just sit here and reminisce'' as Missourians elsewhere remember the disaster most would rather forget.
In the St. Louis suburb of O'Fallon, officials on Thursday morning will dedicate a 6-foot granite monument -- dubbed ''The Spirit of Freedom'' and flanked by 13 tons of twisted rubble from the former World Trade Center -- to honor those killed in the attacks.
''To those who have fallen, to those who are called, to those who are heroes, who sacrificed all,'' the monument reads. ''Look not up to buildings, shattered glass and steel walls, it is the spirit of freedom that makes US stand tall.''
In dedicating the landmark, O'Fallon's mayor will be joined by police, firefighters and military veterans. A moment of silence will give way to a 21-gun salute, the sounding of mournful taps, and music by a high school's marching band.
At various firehouses statewide, bells were to be tolled in honor of the attacks' dead, including emergency workers.
To the west at a Warrenton fire station, officials planned to release red, white and blue balloons after a short service and raising of the American flag, all leading to a video presentation of photos of the attack and its aftermath.
In southwest Missouri's Branson, two remembrance ceremonies are planned in the resort town where saluting Old Glory and singing the national anthem are fixtures of daily life.
Branson leaders invited people to gather for a City Hall ceremony that gets under way at 8:50 a.m., with church bells ringing and tornado sirens wailing. That will give way to moments of silence for those who died in the attacks and those killed in the ensuing fight against terrorism.
Representatives from Branson's police and fire departments will say prayers for emergency services workers. A variety of songs -- including ''God Bless the USA'' -- are planned.
Meanwhile, Branson's Grand Palace invited residents and tourists to dress in red, white and blue, and gather at 7:30 a.m. Thursday to ''celebrate what our country is and reflect and remember'' on what President Bush last year proclaimed as Patroit Day.
Organizers of the 45-minute ceremony expect to release 40 balloons, one for each country affected by the events two years ago, said Steve Weyher, board member of Branson Veterans Task Force.
All the while Thursday, protesters of the U.S.-led war on Iraq expect to gather in St. Louis' Tower Grove Park for a ''circle of hope'' that sponsors bill as ''an attempt to bring healing and harmony to a very wounded and torn nation.''
That event, organizers say, was to include prayer vigils and silence, followed by a candle-lighted walk.
In Columbia near Boone County's courthouse, a public commemoration of the terrorist attacks was to feature short speeches by politicians, a tolling of church bells and a bagpipes rendition of ''Amazing Grace'' by two firefighters.