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‘If their name is spoken out loud, they don’t disappear’: US marks 22 years since 9/11

Updated September 11, 2023 - 1:16 pm

NEW YORK — From ground zero to small towns, Americans looked back Monday on 9/11 with moments of silence, tearful words and appeals to teach younger generations about the terror attacks 22 years before.

“For those of us who lost people on that day, that day is still happening. Everybody else moves on. And you find a way to go forward, but that day is always happening for you,” Edward Edelman said as he arrived at New York’s World Trade Center to honor his slain brother-in-law, Daniel McGinley.

President Joe Biden was due at a ceremony on a military base in Anchorage, Alaska. His visit, en route to Washington from a trip to India and Vietnam, is a reminder that the impact of 9/11 was felt in every corner of the nation, however remote. Nearly 3,000 people were killed when hijacked planes crashed into the trade center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field, in an attack that reshaped American foreign policy and domestic fears.

On that day, “we were one country, one nation, one people, just like it should be. That was the feeling — that everyone came together and did what we could, where we were at, to try to help,” Eddie Ferguson, the fire-rescue chief in Virginia’s Goochland County, said in an interview before the anniversary.

The predominantly rural county of 25,000 people, more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) from the Pentagon, has a Sept. 11 memorial and holds two anniversary commemorations, one focused on first responders and another honoring all the victims.

At ground zero, Vice President Kamala Harris joined other dignitaries at the ceremony on the National Sept. 11 Memorial plaza. Instead of remarks from political figures, the event features victims reading the names of the dead and delivering brief personal messages.

Some included patriotic declarations about American values and thanked first responders and the military. One lauded the Navy SEALs who killed al-Qaida leader and 9/11 plotter Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011. Another appealed for peace and justice. One acknowledged the many lives lost in the post-9/11 “War on Terror.” And many shared reflections on missing loved ones.

“Though we never met, I am honored to carry your name and legacy with me,” said Manuel João DaMota Jr., who was born after his father and namesake died.

Jason Inoa, 20, found it nerve-wracking to tell the crowd about his grandfather, Jorge Velazquez. But Inoa did it for his grandmother, who has Alzheimer’s disease.

“The one thing she does remember is her husband,” he said afterward.

Biden, a Democrat, will be the first president to commemorate Sept. 11 in the western U.S. He and his predecessors have gone to one or another of the attack sites in most years, though Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Barack Obama each marked the anniversary on the White House lawn at times. Obama followed one of those observances by recognizing the military with a visit to Fort Meade in Maryland.

First lady Jill Biden is due to lay a wreath at the 9/11 memorial at the Pentagon, where a giant American flag hung over the side of the building, bells tolled, and musicians played taps at 9:37 a.m., the time when one of the hijacked jets hit the military headquarters.

“As the years go by, it may feel that the world is moving on or even forgetting what happened here on Sept. 11, 2001,” said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who deployed to Iraq in the war that followed the attack. “But please know this: The men and women of the Department of Defense will always remember.”

Harris’ husband, Doug Emhoff, is expected at an afternoon ceremony at the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where another plane crashed after passengers tried to storm the cockpit.

At a morning observance, Rabbi Jeffrey Myers of Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, where a gunman killed 11 worshippers in 2018, called for ensuring that younger people know about 9/11.

“With memory comes responsibility, the determination to share our stories with this next generation, so that through them, our loved ones continue to live,” he told the gathering.

The National Park Service-run memorial site is offering a new educational video, virtual tour and other materials for classroom use. Educators with a total of more than 10,000 students have registered for access, organizers say.

Many Americans did volunteer work on what Congress has designated both Patriot Day and a National Day of Service and Remembrance. Others gathered for anniversary events at memorials, firehouses, city halls, campuses and elsewhere.

In Iowa, a march set off at 9:11 a.m. Monday from the Des Moines suburb of Waukee to the state Capitol. In Columbus, Indiana, observances include a remembrance message sent to police, fire and EMS radios. Pepperdine University’s campus in Malibu, California, displays one American flag for each victim, plus the flags of every other country that lost a citizen on 9/11.

New Jersey’s Monmouth County, which was home to some 9/11 victims, this year made Sept. 11 a holiday for county employees so they could attend commemorations.

Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts raise and lower the flag at a commemoration in Fenton, Missouri, where a “Heroes Memorial” includes steel from the World Trade Center’s fallen twin towers and a plaque honoring Jessica Leigh Sachs, a 9/11 victim with relatives among the St. Louis suburb’s 4,000 residents.

“We’re just a little bitty community,” Mayor Joe Maurath said by phone before the anniversary, but “it’s important for us to continue to remember these events. Not just 9/11, but all of the events that make us free.”

Associated Press journalists Julie Walker and Deepti Hajela in New York, Tara Copp in Washington and Michael Rubinkam in northeastern Pennsylvania contributed to this report.

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