'Like an eternal flame': Americans honor the fallen on 20th anniversary of Sept. 11
By Tyler Clifford and Nathan Layne
NEW YORK, Sept 11 (Reuters) - Twenty years after hijackers slammed airplanes into New York City's World Trade Center and the Pentagon outside Washington, Americans came together on Saturday to remember the nearly 3,000 killed on Sept. 11, 2001, and reflect on how the attacks reshaped society and tipped the country into an intractable war.
As a first responder struck a silver bell, the ceremony at the Sept. 11 Memorial in lower Manhattan began with a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. EDT (1246 GMT), the exact time the first of two planes flew into the World Trade Center's twin towers. President Joe Biden was in attendance, his head bowed.
Mike Low, the first speaker of the day, described the "unbearable sorrow" caused by the death of his daughter, Sara, a flight attendant on the airliner that hit the North Tower.
"My memory goes back to that terrible day when it felt like an evil specter had descended on our world, but it was also a time when many people acted above and beyond the ordinary," he said. "A legacy from Sara, that burns like an eternal flame."
Relatives then began to read aloud the names of 2,977 victims to the thousands who had gathered on the cool, clear morning, among them former President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, New York's junior senator at the time of the attacks.
Bruce Springsteen sang "I'll See You in My Dreams". Uptown at Lincoln Center dancers performed in silver and white robes, signifying the ashes and purity of those who perished in the deadliest attack on U.S. soil.
After leaving ground zero, Biden and first lady Jill Biden headed to Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where United Airlines Flight 93 was downed after passengers fought to regain control of the hijacked plane. His final visit will be to the Pentagon, headquarters of the U.S. Defense Department in Arlington, Virginia, to pay respects to the 184 people who died there in the crash of American Airlines Flight 77. read more
The remembrances have become an annual tradition but Saturday has special significance, coming 20 years after the morning that many view as a turning point in U.S. history, a day that gave Americans a sense of vulnerability that has deeply influenced the country's political life since then.
In a painful reminder of those changes, only 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, and which became the longest conflict in U.S. history. And the COVID-19 pandemic, which so far has claimed more than 655,000 lives in the United States, continues.
In a ceremony at the Pentagon, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army General Mark Milley recognized the 2,461 U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan, including 13 during last month's disorderly exit, as what he called a "terrible chapter in our nation's history" was brought to a close.