Today, the 9th of September marks exactly 20 years since terrorists attacked the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the Pennsylvania field. The attack took about 2, 977 lives, leaving almost 77 countries mourning the deaths of their citizens.
For the past years following the attack, the world has seennumerous changes in the security sector. More technical measures have been tailored towards strengthening global borders, airports, and international office buildings. While there is a significant transformation experienced in New York City, the entire world has its story to tell when remembering this fateful day.
The echoes of cries and sirens heard on this day 20 years ago can still be heard as the US president joins other government officials to remember what went down when the four passenger jets were hijacked and used as guided missiles. As such, like the rest of the most affected countries, America today held the remembrance ceremony at Ground Zero, and here are the main highlights.
President Joe Biden’s Arrival at Ground Zero
The US President Joe Biden arrived at Ground Zero at around 8.35 am. He joined other officials, including former President Bill Clinton, former Secretary Hillary Clinton, former President Barack Obama and the First Lady Michelle Obama, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York Governor Kathy Hochul, and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, and New York State General Letitia James were also among those attending the ceremony. No official was expected to speak at the ceremony. What could be heard was the rushing of water from the fountains, which marked the footprints of the Twin Towers.
Six Moments of Silence Held
When all the officials and victims' families were settled, there followed a moment of silence at around 8.46 am to commemorate the first attack when American Airlines Flight 11 hit the North Tower. The victims' family and friends then began reading the names of nearly 2,977 people who died in the terror attacks and those who died in the 1993 complex bombing.
Mike Low, whose daughter, Sara Low, died in the attack is heard saying that history will not be remembered as numbers and dates, but as people. Sara was a flight attendant on American Airlines Flight 11.
Other moments of silence held include;
• 9.03 am to recall when the second plane, United Airlines Flight 175, hit the South Tower.
• 9.37 am to recall when the American Airlines Flight 77 struck the Pentagon, destroying the military headquarters.
• 9.59 am to mark when the South Tower of the World Trade Center fell.
• 10.03 am to commemorate when the United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in a Pennsylvania field, Shanksville.
• 10.28 am to remember when the North Tower fell.
Journey to Ground Zero
Many people attended the 9/11 anniversary at Ground Zero to remember what happened during the attack. For example, Therese Rockwell, 69, came from Dallas and is heard saying, “Life goes on purposely. It gives you hope, you walk around and see how everything has been washed new and made bigger and better, but you still want to keep the memory alive of this hollow ground.”
On the other hand, Mike Sweet, 56, who traveled from Maryland said, "I will never forget the look on everyone's faces." Mike worked for FEMA during the attacks and remembers these incidents standing on Church Street reflecting what he saw 20 years ago.
Joe Biden Leaves Ground Zero Ceremony
President Joe Biden, together with Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and First Ladies left the ceremony at Ground Zero at 9.44 am. Biden was scheduled to head to Shanksville, Pennsylvania to attend another ceremony held to remember those who died when the United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in the field. The plane which was heading to Washington crashed in a field near Shanksville when the passenger tried to fight the hijackers and regain it.
President Bush’s Address
In his speech at around 10.45 am, former President George W. Bush took his time to remember the 40 people who died when Flight 93 crashed in the field in Pennsylvania. He also hailed the crew who brought down the plane, not forgetting the challenges he faced as he led the country during the attack. In his address, he said, “Twenty years ago, we all found- in different ways, in different places, but all at the same moment- that our lives would be changed forever. The world was loud with carnage and sirens, and then quiet with missing voices that would never be heard again…”
Vice President Kamala Harris’s Speech
Vice President Kamala Harris also gave her remarks at the Shanksville ceremony at around 11.05 am. While remembering those who died on Flight 93, Harris praised the courage of passengers and the crew, while urging Americans to emulate the moments after the attack when the country was rebuilding.
In her speech, the Vice President said, “On the days that followed September 11th, 2001, we were all reminded that unity is possible in America. We were reminded, too, that unity is imperative in America. It is essential to our shared prosperity, our national security, and to our standing in the world…”
The Ending of Ceremony at Ground Zero
The commemoration ceremony at Ground Zero ended with the reading of nearly 3,000 names of people who died during the attacks. Buglers also played Taps to signify the closing of the ceremony.
Some of the notable remarks include those of Vaugh Coleman, whose father, Keith Coleman, worked at the Cantor Fitzgerald in Tower One of the World Trade Center. In his closing remarks, Coleman said, “Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my father and the horrible way he was taken from me. I can’t change that but I know that he’s here in spirit…”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also reflected on the ceremony saying it was incredibly moving. In an interview after the ceremony, Bill de Blasio said, “Every year we still feel it, but this year, on top of Covid, it’s taken on an added meaning, and what I am feeling is just the strength and perseverance of New Yorkers…”