Americans pay tribute to the thousands who died on 9/11

WASHINGTON — Terrorist attacks on New York and the nation’s capital — acts of violence that left Americans confused, fearful but later united and determined — have seared an imprint on the minds of those who survived and remember that day 16 years ago.

“No one will forget where they were on Sept. 11, 2001,” said Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev.

Cortez Masto, President Donald Trump and countless Americans paused Monday to remember and pay tribute to the thousands killed in the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Thousands of family members, survivors, rescuers and others gathered for the reading of victims’ names at the World Trade Center, while Trump spoke at the Pentagon and Vice President Mike Pence addressed an observance at the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Cortez Masto was working in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C., that day in 2001. She, like others who witnessed the attack here, remember the hysteria and pandemonium of that day.

“I was in a courtroom in Washington, D.C., working as a district attorney when we were asked to evacuate after a plane crashed into the Pentagon,” Cortez Masto recalled.

After the aircraft struck the Pentagon, across the Potomac River in Arlington, Virginia, barricades were erected in Washington and the White House was evacuated. President George W. Bush was in Florida on a scheduled trip when the attacks occurred.

From the White House, looking south down 17th Street Northwest, smoke billowed from the Pentagon. Sirens soon wailed and commuters packed subway to leave the city.

“The horror of that day is still marked in our hearts, but even more powerful than the fear we felt is the hope and unity that came after,” Cortez Masto said.

Patriot Day

The attacks on Sept. 11, carried out by al-Qaida terrorists, killed nearly 3,000 people and injured more than 6,000 others. Two hijacked jetliners full of passengers crashed into the World Trade Center towers in New York.

Another commercial aircraft commandeered by terrorists struck the western portion of the Pentagon before 10 a.m.

A fourth plane, United Airlines Flight 93, headed south from New Jersey toward Washington when it crashed near Shanksville.

Sept. 11 is commemorated each year as Patriot Day, or the National Day of Service and Remembrance.

On Monday, Trump and first lady Melania Trump observed a moment of silence at the White House, before traveling to the Pentagon for an anniversary ceremony.

Trump told the crowd that “America cannot be intimidated, and those who try will join a long list of vanquished enemies who dared test our mettle.”

But he also spoke to those who still live with the tragedy.

“For the families with us on this anniversary, we know that not a single day goes by when you don’t think about the loved one stolen from your life,” Trump said. “Today, our entire nation grieves with you.”

Pence was in Shanksville for a commemoration of victims of that jet crash, which is widely believed to have been the result of passengers who revolted against the hijackers.

‘Longest 12 minutes’

Pence, who at the time was a new House member from Indiana, recalled the anxiety of the day. He was ushered into the Capitol Police office with other lawmakers when they were told that a plane was headed toward Washington and was “12 minutes out.”

“So we waited,” Pence told the Shanksville audience. “It was the longest 12 minutes of my life. But it turned to 13 minutes, then 14, and then we were informed the plane had gone down in a field in Pennsylvania.”

“In the days ahead, like every American, we would learn the story of the 40 heroes of Flight 93, men and women who looked evil squarely in the eye and without regard to their personal safety,” Pence told the Pennsylvania service.

Back in Washington, the Senate observed a moment of remembrance following the daily prayer and pledge of allegiance.

House lawmakers also issued statements commemorating the selflessness and sacrifice of those who responded when the nation was attacked.

“First responders, airline passengers, soldiers and ordinary citizens answered the call to action and emerged as heroes in the days and years following the attack,” said Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev.

Cortez Masto, who witnessed the sacrifices first hand, said “for many survivors, the physical and emotional scars of that day can never fully heal.”

Cortez Masto was working in the courtroom on Sept. 11 when the terrorists struck.

“I’ll never forget it,” she said in a March interview with the Review-Journal.

“It was horrific.”

Contact Gary Martin at 202-662-7390 or Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.

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