NEW YORK — For the 20th time, America will pause for, read the names of and remember the nearly 3,000 people killed in the Sept. 11 attacks that stunned and forever changed the nation.
In New York City, at the Pentagon and outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania, ceremonies to remember the attacks that occurred there 20 years ago are being held Saturday, and President Joe Biden plans to visit each site.
The 20th anniversary of the attacks comes amid the United States’ chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, a war started in response to the attacks and one that has left many 9/11 families and survivors, veterans and Americans with mixed emotions.
On Sept. 11, 2001, 19 al-Qaida hijackers took control of four U.S. commercial airplanes in a plot to attack major U.S. landmarks. Two of the planes toppled the World Trade Center’s twin towers in New York. One crashed into the Pentagon in northern Virginia. Another, headed toward Washington, D.C., careened into a field in Pennsylvania after the passengers and crew fought back to take control.
The attacks prompted the war in Afghanistan weeks later, followed by the war in Iraq in 2003. They changed America’s domestic security and surveillance infrastructure. Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry intensified across America in the years that followed.
As the country moves another year further from the attacks, there’s a growing focus on educating a younger generation with no memory of that day.
“The nation faces a transformative moment with awareness of 9/11 transitioning from memory to history,” said Alice Greenwald, president and CEO of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.
USA TODAY Network reporters and photographers are covering the ceremonies in New York City, Shanksville and at the Pentagon. Refresh this page for the latest updates.
Here’s a look at what’s happening Saturday:
- In New York City, the annual reading of the names and Tribute in Light will occur at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.
- A private ceremony at the Pentagon will be held, with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, taking part.
- In Shanksville, the names of the passengers and crew members will be read as the Bells of Remembrance the National Memorial site are rung.
Hundreds gather for reading of names at 9/11 Memorial in NYC
A solemn crowd of hundreds of first responders, families of victims and politicians lined the 9/11 Memorial in New York City to mark the 20th anniversary. Families held photos of loved ones who died in the attack as flowers and flags were placed near their names on the Memorial.
Security remained tight around the World Trade Center site, with NYPD bomb squads and officers with long guns patrolled nearby.
Family members honor memory of fallen loved ones at private Pentagon ceremony
Outside the Pentagon early Saturday, guests walked through an aisle lined with flags, trickling into rows of white chairs near where two fire trucks from the Arlington County Fire Department displayed a large American flag.
Near the front, Richard Keller and his wife honor the memory of his son, Chandler Keller. Keller, 29 at the time of the attacks, died onboard the hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 departing Dulles to Los Angeles.
“We lost him on that day, and we’ve been back almost every year to remember him,” Richard Keller said. “We’ve had the blessing of a wonderful family and friends that have kept us whole throughout all this.”
“We just can’t believe it’s been 20 years,” he added. “We’re tried hard to keep his memory alive.”
— Sarah Elbeshbishi, USA TODAY
Where will the former presidents be?
America’s former presidents will mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11 publicly and privately Saturday.
Former President George W. Bush, who was commander in chief during the attacks, will deliver keynote remarks Saturday morning at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville. He’ll then head to Dallas with his wife, Laura, for a screening of the documentary “9/11: Inside the President’s War Room” at the George W. Bush Presidential Center.
Former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, will attend the ceremony at Ground Zero in New York, the site of the two World Trade Center towers.
America’s oldest living former president will mark the anniversary in private. Former President Jimmy Carter, 96, is not scheduled to appear publicly on Saturday.
Staff for former presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump didn’t respond to a request for comment, however Trump is slated to provide commentary Saturday night during a boxing match between in Florida.
– Rick Rouan, USA TODAY