NEW YORK — Americans remembered 9/11 on Sunday with tear-choked tributes and pleas to “never forget,” 21 years after the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil.
Nikita Shah headed to the ceremony at ground in a T-shirt that bore the de facto epigraph of the annual commemoration — “never forget” — and the name of her slain father, Jayesh Shah. After the incident, the family relocated to Houston but often returns to New York to commemorate the death of Jayesh Shah and almost 3,000 others.
“For us, it was being around people who kind of experienced the same type of grief and the same feelings after 9/11,” said Shah, who was 10 when her father was killed at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
Victims’ relatives and dignitaries also convened at the two other attack sites, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.
Many communities across the nation are commemorating the event with candlelight Vigils, Interfaith Services and other celebrations. Volunteer projects are being undertaken by Americans on the Patriot Day, which is also federally acknowledged as a National Day of Service and Remembrance.
More than two decades later, Sept. 11 remains a point for reflection on the attack that reconfigured national security policy and spurred a U.S. “war on terror” worldwide. Sunday’s observances, which follow a fraught milestone anniversary last year, come little more than a month after a U.S. drone strike killed a key al-Qaida figure who helped plot the 9/11 attacks, Ayman al-Zawahri.
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. Both subtlely and clearly, America’s aftermath of 9/11 has reverberated through American politics and public policy to this day.
The attacks cast an unwelcome shadow on the lives of thousands who were able to respond, or lose loved ones, friends, and colleagues.
Firefighter Jimmy Riches’ namesake nephew wasn’t born yet when his uncle died, but the boy took the podium to pay tribute to him.
“You’re always in my heart. And I know you are watching over me,” he said after reading a portion of the victims’ names.
More than 70 of Sekou Siby’s co-workers perished at Windows on the World, the restaurant atop the trade center’s north tower. Siby was originally scheduled to go to work the morning before another chef asked him to change shifts.
Siby didn’t take a job in a restaurant again. It would have been too painful. The Ivorian immigrant wrestled with how to comprehend such horror in a country where he’d come looking for a better life.
His Windows on the World friends found it hard to develop the close and family-like relationships he had. It was too painful, he had learned, to become attached to people when “you have no control over what’s going to happen to them next.”
“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. The restaurant workers’ advocacy group evolved from a relief center for Windows on the World workers who lost their jobs when the twin towers fell.
Joe Biden, the President, plans to address the Pentagon and place a wreath. Jill Biden, the First Lady, will speak in Shanksville (Pennsylvania), where he and his crew attempted to seize control of one hijacked aircraft as they headed towards Washington. Al-Qaida conspiracy members had taken control of the jets in order to make passenger-filled missiles.
The ceremony was attended by Vice President Kamala Harris, and her husband Doug Emhoff. However, the National Sept. 11 Memorial is in New York City. Tradition dictates that no politicians are allowed to speak at ground zero. It centers instead on victims’ relatives reading aloud the names of the dead.
Readers often add personal remarks that form an alloy of American sentiments about Sept. 11 — grief, anger, toughness, appreciation for first responders and the military, appeals to patriotism, hopes for peace, occasional political barbs, 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. Federal law enforcement agencies and intelligence agencies have been restructured to concentrate on domestic terrorism since 9/11. They now consider the threat from violent extremism equally important.
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