NEW YORK (AP) – Americans remembered 9/11 with moments of silence, readings of victims’ names, volunteer work and other tributes 21 years after the deadliest terror attack on United States (US) soil.
Victims’ relatives and dignitaries convened yesterday at the places where hijacked jets crashed on September 11, 2001 – the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.
Other communities around the country marked the day with candlelight vigils, interfaith services and other commemorations. Some Americans joined volunteer projects on a day federally recognised as both Patriot Day and a National Day of Service and Remembrance.
The observances followed a fraught milestone anniversary last year. It came weeks after the chaotic and humbling end of the Afghanistan war that the US launched in response to the attacks.
But if this September 11 is less of an inflection point, it remains a point for reflection on the attack that killed nearly 3,000, spurred a US global “war on terror” and reconfigured national security policy.
It also stirred – for a time – a sense of national pride and unity for many, while subjecting Muslim Americans to years of suspicion and bigotry and engendering debate over the balance between safety and civil liberties.
And the attacks have cast a long shadow into the personal lives of thousands of people who survived, responded or lost loved ones, friends and colleagues.
More than 70 of Sekou Siby’s co-workers perished at Windows on the World, the restaurant atop the trade centre’s north tower.
Siby was scheduled to work that morning until another cook asked him to switch shifts.
“Every 9/11 is a reminder of what I lost that I can never recover,” says Siby, who is now president and CEO of ROC United.
Yesterday, US President Joe Biden spoke and laid a wreath at the Pentagon, while First Lady Jill Biden spoke in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where one of the hijacked planes went down after passengers and crew members tried to storm the cockpit.
Vice President Kamala Harris and husband Doug Emhoff were at the National September 11 Memorial in New York, but by tradition, no political figures speak at the ground zero ceremony. It centres instead on victims’ relatives reading aloud the names of the dead.
Readers often add personal remarks that form an alloy of American sentiments about September 11 – grief, anger, toughness, appreciation for first responders and the military, and a poignant accounting of the graduations, weddings, births and daily lives that victims have missed.
Some relatives also lament that a nation which came together – to some extent – after the attacks has since splintered apart. So much so that federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies, which were reshaped to focus on international terrorism after 9/11, now see the threat of domestic violent extremism as equally urgent.