NEW YORK — Americans remembered Sept. 11 Sunday with tearful tributes and pleas to “never forget,” 21 years after the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil.
Nikita Shah headed to the ceremony on the ground wearing a T-shirt that bore the annual celebration’s de facto epigraph – “never forget” – and the name of her slain father, Jayesh Shah. The family then moved to Houston, but often returned to New York for the anniversary of the attack that killed him and nearly 3,000 others.
“For us, it was about being around people who experienced the same type of grief and the same feelings after 9/11,” said Shah, who was 10 years old when her father was killed in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
Relatives of the victims and dignitaries also gathered at the other two sites of the attack, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.
Other communities across the country mark the day with candlelight vigils, interfaith services and other commemorations. Some Americans join volunteer projects on a day that is federally recognized as Patriot’s Day and the National Day of Service and Remembrance.
More than two decades later, 9/11 remains a point of reflection on the attack that reconfigured national security policy and boost America’s “war on terror” around the world. The Sunday holidays that follow busy milestone anniversary last yearcomes just over a month after a US drone strike killed a key al Qaeda figure who helped plan the 9/11 attacks, Ayman al-Zawahri.
It also awakened – for a time – a sense of national pride and unity in many, while subjecting Muslim Americans to years of suspicion and bigotry and sparking debate about the balance between safety and civil liberties. In ways both subtle and clear, the aftermath of 9/11 is roiling American politics and Public life until this day.
And the attacks cast a long shadow over the personal lives of thousands of people who survived, responded or lost loved ones, friends and colleagues.
Firefighter Jimmy Richis’ eponymous nephew wasn’t even born when his uncle died, but the boy took to the podium to pay his respects.
“You are always in my heart. And I know you’re watching over me,” he said after reading some of the victims’ names.
More than 70 of Sekou Siby’s colleagues died at Windows on the World, the restaurant atop the mall’s north tower. Sibby was supposed to work that morning until another cook asked him to change shifts.
Sibi never started working in a restaurant again; it would bring back too many memories. The Ivorian immigrant struggled with how to understand such horror in a country he had come to in search of a better life.
It was difficult for him to form the kind of close, family friendships that he and his Windows on the World colleagues shared. He had learned that it was too painful to get attached to people when “you have no control over what happens to them next.”
“Every 9/11 is a reminder of what I lost that I can never get back,” says Sibi, who is now president and CEO of ROC United. The restaurateur advocacy group evolved from a Windows on the World relief center for workers who lost their jobs when the Twin Towers fell.
On Sunday, President Joe Biden plans to speak and lay a wreath at the Pentagon, while first lady Jill Biden is scheduled to speak in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where one of the hijacked planes went down after passengers and crew tried to storm the cockpit as the hijackers headed toward Washington. Al Qaeda the conspirators had seized control of the planes to use as rockets filled with passengers.
Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, joined the commemoration at the National September 11 Memorial in New York, but traditionally no political figure spoke at the ground zero ceremony. Instead, it focuses on the victims’ relatives reading aloud the names of the dead.
Readers often add personal remarks that form a mix of American sentiments about 9/11—grief, anger, fortitude, appreciation for first responders and the military, appeals to patriotism, hopes for peace, the occasional political slur, and a poignant account of graduation. weddings, births and everyday life that the victims missed.
Some relatives also lament that a nation that came together — to some extent — after the attacks has since fallen apart. So much so that federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies, which were restructured to focus on international terrorism after 9/11, now see the threat of domestic violent extremism as just as urgent.
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