Twenty years after hijacked passenger planes crashed in New York City’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon outside Washington, DC, people gathered in the United States to honor the nearly 3,000 lives lost on September 11, 2001.
Saturday’s ceremony at the September 11 Memorial in New York City begins with a moment of silence at 08:46 (12:46 GMT), exactly the time when the first of two planes flew in the twin towers of the World Trade Center.
Family members then began reciting the names of 2,977 victims, a four-hour annual ritual.
“We love you and we miss you,” many of them said as gloomy violin music was played during the official ceremony, attended by dignitaries including President Joe Biden and former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.
Mourners grab photos of their loved ones while music icon Bruce Springsteen sings his song I’ll See You in My Dreams. After nightfall, two rays of light are projected into the air of New York.
“As we move forward these 20 years, I still find appreciation for everyone who has become more than just ordinary people,” said Mike Low, whose daughter was a flight attendant on the first flight.
The memories have become an annual tradition, but Saturday takes on a special meaning, 20 years after the morning that many see as a turning point in American history.
In a painful reminder of the changes, US and allied forces completed a chaotic withdrawal from the war just weeks ago, which the US launched in Afghanistan shortly after the retaliatory attacks – which became the longest war in US history.
US forces overthrew the Taliban, which has dominated Afghanistan since 1996, because the group provided a refuge to al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who carried out the 9/11 attacks. Bin Laden was chased and killed in Pakistan a decade later.
However, the Taliban are now back in power in Afghanistan, while the accused of the 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other men are still awaiting trial, nine years after the charge was filed.
At Ground Zero, 2,753 people from around the world were killed in the initial explosions, deadlifts or simply disappeared in the inferno of the collapsing towers.
At the Pentagon, a plane tore a fiery hole in the side of the superpower’s military nerve center, killing 184 people in the plane and on the ground.
And in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the third wave of hijackers crashed into a field after passengers fought back and sent United 93 off before reaching its intended goal – probably the US Capitol building in Washington.
The memorials come because national discord overshadows any sense of closure amid anger over the messy evacuation of Kabul, which includes 13 U.S. soldiers killed by a suicide bomber and stabbed by the greater sense of failure and defeat.
In a video posted on the eve of the anniversary, Biden urged the Americans to show unity, ‘our greatest strength’.
‘For me, this is the most important lesson of September 11th. It is that unity at our most vulnerable, in the push and pull of everything that makes us human, is the greatest force in the struggle for the soul of America, ”Biden said in a six-minute message from the White House.
Across the country
Although many of the major events in and around New York will take place, people across the country have planned events to remember those who died and to educate the public, including outside fire stations in New York in memory of the 343 firefighters who lost their lives.
At the Pentagon, headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense, a U.S. flag will be folded on the west side where an airplane struck the building on September 11, 2001 at exactly 9:37 AM EDT (1:37 PM GMT).
Later, the department will hold a private ceremony in honor of the 184 people killed there.
In Shanksville in southwestern Pennsylvania, family and guests at the National Memorial will gather there to kill the 40 people when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into a farm field.
In Houston, people gather on Saturday for the “9/11 Heroes Run”. At a U.S. Navy training facility outside Chicago, 2,977 flags were placed in a field to honor each of the people who died in the attacks 20 years ago.