NEW YORK, NY
Thousands of Americans on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, gathered Saturday at sites where four hijacked commercial planes crashed, leaving 2,977 dead and changed the course of world history.
In lower Manhattan, New York, a solemn crowd gathered at the two, large sunken waterfall pools where the two, 110-story towers of the World Trade Center were felled by planes on Sept. 11, 2001.
Among them were US President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden, along with former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton and their wives.
None spoke but listened as names of the 2,606 New York victims were read, bells tolled and singers, musicians and speakers captured the spirit of the melancholy and hopefulness in the days after the worst terror attack on US soil.
“My larger-than-life, live-out-loud big brother who loved to make people laugh,” a buoyant and animated Anthoula Katsimatidas told the crowd about her brother John, who worked on the 104th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
Katsimatidas said that after the attacks, she realized she was part of a club “that none of us signed up for,” but was lifted by an unexpected, “unlimited amount kindness pouring in, to each of us, from friends and strangers and the whole country seemed to put its arm around us. And that lent me just enough strength to get up the next day, and the day after that.”
Simultaneously, the tone was far more serious and almost angry from the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, who told an outdoor audience at the Pentagon that those killed at the complex on 9/11 were “the innocent caught in the crossfire of terror. The ideology of hatred unfolded on this very ground. In seconds, 184 men, women and children were slaughtered in the violent impact and fury.”
Former President George W. Bush gave one of the day’s most memorable speeches in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93 managed to confront the hijackers and bring down the plane in a field before it could reach its presumed target at the US Capitol.
“Here, the intended targets became the instruments of rescue,” Bush said of the passengers who were “selected by fate.”
He said countless people alive today “owe a vast, unconscious debt” to the 40 passengers and crew. “We learned that bravery is more common than we imagined, emerging with sudden splendor in the face of death.”
Bush also delivered the day’s most pointed remarks comparing American attitudes then, as now, saying: “Malign force seems at work in our common life that turns every disagreement into an argument and every argument into a clash of cultures. I come without explanations or solutions. I can only tell you what I’ve seen.”
He looked back on 9/11 and referenced the hijackers’ religion, rejecting the “bigotry that might have flowed freely. I saw Americans reject prejudice and embrace people of Muslim faith. That is the nation I know,” he said to applause.
Vice President Kamala Harris also spoke in Shanksville, and made the long walk through the grassy field, joined later by Biden, who also attended the memorial at the Pentagon.