“Like an Eternal Flame”: Americans Honor 20th Anniversary of Dead September 11
NEW YORK, Sept. 11 (Reuters) – Twenty years after hijackers smashed into New York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon near Washington, Americans gathered on Saturday to remember the nearly 3,000 killed on September 11, 2001 and reflect on how the attacks reshaped society and turned the country into an unsolvable war.
As a first responder struck a silver bell, the ceremony at the 9/11 Memorial in lower Manhattan began with a moment of silence at 8.46 a.m. EDT (1246 GMT), the exact time at which the first of the two planes landed in the World Trade Center Twin Towers. President Joe Biden was present with his head bowed.
Mike Low, the day’s first speaker, described the “unbearable grief” caused by the death of his daughter, Sara, a flight attendant on the airliner that crashed into the North Tower.
“My memory goes back to that terrible day when I felt like an evil specter had descended on our world, but it was also a time when many people acted beyond the ordinary”, a- he declared. “A legacy of Sarah, which burns like an eternal flame.”
Relatives then began to read aloud the names of 2,977 victims to the thousands who had gathered on a cool, clear morning, including former President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the young senator from New York. at the time of the attacks.
Bruce Springsteen sang “I’ll See You in My Dreams”. The Uptown dancers at Lincoln Center performed in silver and white dresses, signifying the ashes and purity of the dead.
After leaving zero point, Biden headed for Shanksville, Pa., Where Flight 93 was shot down after passengers struggled to regain control of the hijacked plane. His final visit will be to the Pentagon, the headquarters of the US Department of Defense in Arlington, Virginia, to pay tribute to the 184 people who died there in the Flight 77 crash.
Commemorations have become an annual tradition, but Saturday has special significance, coming 20 years after the morning that many see as a turning point in U.S. history, a day that gave Americans a sense of vulnerability that deeply carries influenced the political life of the country since then.
In a painful reminder of those changes, just a few weeks ago, U.S. and Allied forces completed a chaotic withdrawal from the war the United States started in Afghanistan in retaliation for the attacks – which have become the world’s most serious war. long history of the United States. And the COVID-19 pandemic, which has so far claimed more than 655,000 lives in the United States, continues.
During a ceremony at the Pentagon, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, spoke of the 2,461 U.S. servicemen killed in Afghanistan, including 13 in last month’s disorderly sortie, and the close of “This terrible chapter in the history of our nation”.
Speaking in Shanksville, former President George W. Bush, who took office eight months before 9/11 changed the trajectory of his presidency, said the unity demonstrated after the attacks seemed far removed from the divisions that Americans are currently dividing.
“The malignant force seems to be at work in our common life,” he said. “Much of our politics has become a naked appeal for anger, fear and resentment.”
As the sun sets, 88 powerful bulbs will project twin beams four miles (6.4 km) into the sky to reflect the fallen towers. This year, buildings in Manhattan, including the Empire State Building and the Metropolitan Opera, will join the commemoration by lighting their facades in blue.
Also marking the anniversary, the New York Mets and New York Yankees baseball teams will face off in a Subway Special Series Saturday night, their first game on September 11 since the attacks. Players will wear caps bearing the logos of New York City firefighters and other first responders.
The 20-year milestone comes as political leaders and educators worry about the shrinking collective memory that day. Some 75 million Americans – nearly a quarter of the estimated U.S. population – have been born since September 11, 2001.
At her Long Island home, Danielle Salerno, 50, and her children dug a hole in the backyard and planted a weeping cherry tree in tribute to her late husband, a broker at Cantor Fitzgerald who was on the 104th floor of the north tower.
She had their son Jack, now 19, baptized on the first birthday and wanted to honor John “Pepe” Salerno with “something that grows and flourishes” for the 20-year milestone. Once the tree was sunk into the ground, she poured champagne on the ground to toast John, with his friends and family close at hand.
For some, the tumultuous events in Afghanistan worsened the psychological toll of the day, raising questions as to whether the US military’s mission there was in vain.
Alain Michnick, a financial professional who lived a few miles north of the World Trade Center 20 years ago, said he had mixed feelings about some of the actions the U.S. military has taken since then and how whose society has changed.
“I think it changed the world in a lot of ways because it made people a little paranoid and violent to a certain extent,” said Michnick, who came to commemorate the moment outside of the ceremony at Ground Zero.
Reporting by Tyler Clifford in New York, Shannon Stapleton in Port Washington, New York, and Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Daniel Wallis
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