NEW YORK, Sept.11 (Reuters) – Twenty years after hijacked airliners crashed into New York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon outside Washington, Americans gathered on Saturday to honor those near 3,000 lives lost on September 11, 2001 and reflect on how the attacks shaped the country’s outlook on the world and on itself.
With President Joe Biden on hand, the ceremony at the 9/11 Memorial in New York City began with a minute of silence at 8:46 a.m. EDT (1246 GMT), the exact time the first of the two planes landed in the World Trade Center. twin towers.
Mike Low, whose daughter was a flight attendant aboard the airliner that struck the north tower, made the opening remarks after the minute’s silence, describing “the unbearable sadness and disbelief” experienced by his family for the past 20 years.
“As we recite the names of those whose memories we have lost, my memory goes back to that terrible day when I felt like an evil specter had descended upon our world, but it was also a time when many many people have acted beyond the ordinary, ”he said. .
Relatives then began to read aloud the names of 2,977 victims, an annual ritual that will last four hours.
After zero point in lower Manhattan, Biden will visit the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, where a third airliner has crashed; and Shanksville, Pa., where Flight 93 was shot down after passengers attempted to regain control of the hijacked plane.
Commemorations have become an annual tradition, but Saturday takes on special significance, 20 years after the morning that many see as a turning point in American history, a day that gave Americans a sense of vulnerability that has profoundly influenced political life. of the country since then.
In a painful reminder of these 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.
Clifford Chanin, executive vice president of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum built on the site of the World Trade Center attack, said the two-decade milestone would be a “moment of great emotion” for the country, a moment to consider “where we have been and where we are heading.”
“Of course we are in the midst of another unimaginable event right now with the COVID pandemic, but if 9/11 brings us anything in terms of what happened here and at the other attack sites , it’s a message of resilience, ”Chanin said. told reporters this week.
On Saturday morning, dancers paid tribute outside Lincoln Center, draped in long silk dresses in shades of silver and white to signify the ashes and purity of those who died.
As the sun sets, 88 powerful bulbs will project twin beams four miles (6.4 km) into the sky to reflect the shape of 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.
‘MY BROKEN HEART’
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.
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.
“I love America and my fellow Americans, but I am ashamed of the way we are handling our exit and my heart breaks for those whose lives have been lost or destroyed by our actions,” said Wells Noonan, whose brother Robby was in the north tower. .
Noonan said she would spend Saturday morning at a ceremony in her hometown of Greenwich, Connecticut to honor 33 people with ties to the New York suburbs who were killed, before returning home to be with her family and remembering “the days with Robby.”
To mark the anniversary, the New York Mets and New York Yankees professional baseball teams will face off on Saturday night in a Subway Special Series, their first game on September 11 since the attacks.
Baseball was an important symbol of New York’s resilience in the aftermath of 9/11, as the city struggled to cope with the shock, grief and physical destruction of the attacks.
Ten days after the attacks, the Mets become the city’s first professional sports team to return to the field, facing the Atlanta Braves. The game, which the Mets won 3-2, provided a healing diversion for the marked city and a signal that it was ready to start moving forward again.
Former Mets manager Bobby Valentine will throw the first pitch at former New York Yankees manager Joe Torre on Saturday. Players will wear caps bearing the logos of the New York Fire Department and other first responders during the game.
AROUND THE COUNTRY
While many of the big events will take place in and around New York City, residents across the country are planning events to remember those who have passed away and to educate the public.
At the Pentagon, the headquarters of the US Department of Defense, an American flag will be displayed on the west side where a plane struck the building at precisely 9:37 a.m. EDT (1337 GMT) on September 11, 2001. Later, the department will hold a private ceremony in the honor of the 184 people who were killed there.
In Shanksville, southwestern Pennsylvania, family and guests will gather at the National Memorial to honor the 40 people killed when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into a farm field.
In Houston, people will gather for the “9/11 Heroes Run” on Saturday. At a US Navy training facility outside of Chicago, 2,977 flags were placed in a field to honor each of those killed in the attacks 20 years ago.
Reporting by Tyler Clifford in New York and Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Daniel Wallis
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