The world solemnly marked the 20th anniversary of 9/11 on Saturday, remembering the dead, invoking the heroes and taking stock of the aftermath just weeks after the bloody end of the Afghanistan war that was launched in response to the terror attacks.
Victims' relatives and four U.S. presidents paid respects at the sites where hijacked planes killed nearly 3,000 people in the deadliest act of terrorism on American soil.
Others gathered for observances from Portland, Maine, to Guam, or for volunteer projects on what has become a day of service in the U.S. Foreign leaders expressed sympathy over an attack that happened in the U.S. but claimed victims from more than 90 countries.
The anniversary unfolded under the pall of a pandemic and in the shadow of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, which is now ruled by the same Taliban militant group that gave safe haven to the 9/11 plotters.
Bruce Springsteen and Broadway actors Kelli O'Hara and Chris Jackson sang at the commemoration, but by tradition, no politicians spoke there. In a video released Friday night, Biden addressed the continuing pain of loss but also spotlighted what he called the “central lesson” of Sept. 11: “that at our most vulnerable ... unity is our greatest strength.”
Biden was also paying respects at the two other sites where the 9/11 conspirators crashed the jets: the Pentagon and a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Follow below for live updates:
Ex-Afghan leader hosts tribal elders on 9/11
Afghanistan’s first 2001 post-Taliban president Hamid Karzai marked the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on America with a meeting of tribal elders at his high-walled compound in the Afghan capital where he has remained with his family since the August return of the Taliban to Kabul.
In a tweet, Karzai called for “peace and stability” and expressed the hope that the new caretaker Cabinet that included no women and no non-Taliban would become an “inclusive government that can be the real face of the whole Afghanistan.”
Twin Beams Pay Tribute to Fallen Towers in NYC
At sundown, two vertical beams of bright blue light shot upward through the darkened New York City sky, evoking the twin towers in an annual tribute visible for miles.
The “Tribute in Light” public art installation first shone six months after the Sept. 11 attacks and has been repeated each anniversary since, with the twin columns reaching up to four miles into the sky from dusk to dawn.
The beams are comprised of 88 xenon light bulbs, each 7,000 watts, positioned into two 48-foot squares on the roof of a parking garage south of the 9/11 Memorial. They can be viewed from a 60-mile radius.
The 9/11 Memorial and Museum presents the display to honor those who were killed and celebrate the spirit of the city.
For the 20th anniversary, buildings throughout New York also planned to light up their facades and rooftops in blue.
Biden Pays his Respects at Pentagon Memorial
President Joe Biden is ending his day of remembrance by paying his respects at the National Pentagon 9/11 Memorial.
Biden and wife Jill took a moment of silence before a wreath studded with white, purple and red flowers on display in front of the memorial benches that mark the 184 victims of the attack on the Pentagon.
Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, also took a moment of silence at the memorial. All four listened as a uniformed bugler played taps.
It was Biden’s third and final stop of the day, after visiting the National September 11 Memorial in New York City and the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania earlier in the day. He is slated to spend the rest of the weekend at his home in Wilmington, Delaware.
Marine Killed by Afghan Bomb Comes Home to US
The body of a U.S. Marine killed in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan has returned home to Massachusetts on the 20th anniversary of the attacks that led to the war.
Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo, 25, was among the U.S. service members and Afghans killed in the Aug. 26 bombing near the Kabul airport.
Gov. Charlie Baker, Boston Mayor Kim Janey and U.S. Sen. Edward Markey paid their respects to her family as the body arrived Saturday at Boston’s Logan International Airport.
In Rosario Pichardo’s hometown of Lawrence, people lined the streets and waved flags at the vehicle procession of police, firefighters and others that accompanied her casket. A Marine honor guard carried the flag-draped casket into a funeral home.
“She’s coming home on the date, the 20th anniversary of the date, that created the war that cost her life,” Francisco Urena, former state veterans commissioner, told The Boston Globe.
She served with the Naval Amphibious Force, Task Force 51/5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade.
A private funeral Mass will be held at Monday. A public wake is planned Tuesday at a stadium in Lawrence, with burial at Bellevue Cemetery.
In NYC, Trump Criticizes Afghanistan Withdrawal
Former President Donald Trump commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks by visiting a fire station and police precinct in New York, where he criticized his successor for the way he pulled out of Afghanistan last month.
Trump skipped joining President Joe Biden and other past presidents at official 9/11 memorial ceremonies Saturday at the World Trade Center and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Instead, he traveled several blocks from his Trump Tower building in Manhattan to the 17th police precinct and the neighboring fire station. Speaking to officers, Trump criticized the withdrawal from Afghanistan and expressed surprise about why it hadn’t come up in other 9/11 memorial speeches. “It was gross incompetence,” he said of the exit.
Trump was asked by the officers whether he plans to launch a comeback run for the White House in 2024 -- or for mayor of New York. He said it was an easy decision that would make them happy.
“If I catch COVID it’s because of you,” Trump said as he posed for photos with police officers.
Trump planned to end the day in Florida, where he is providing commentary on a boxing match.
Biden Places Wreath at Shanksville 9/11 Memorial
President Joe Biden made the second of his three Sept. 11 stops, visiting the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, not long after Vice President Kamala Harris and former President George W. Bush spoke at a remembrance.
Biden placed a wreath at Memorial Plaza, home to the Wall of Names, where the names of the passengers and the crew from that flight are inscribed in marble.
The president and first lady Jill Biden then walked with relatives of the crash victims into the grassy field when the jet came to rest.
Biden made no public comments during his time at the memorial.
Biden arrived in Pennsylvania after joining former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and other dignitaries, as well as Sept. 11 victims' family members, at Saturday's World Trade Center ceremony of remembrance in New York City.
The New York ceremony concluded with taps after victims' relatives read the names of nearly 3,000 people who were killed in the 2001 attacks.
Bush Notes 'Sudden Splendor' of Bravery on 9/11
Former President George W. Bush told people at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Pennsylvania that Americans learned much about themselves on Sept. 11.
“We learned that bravery is more common than we imagined, emerging with sudden splendor in the face of death," Bush said Saturday at a ceremony on the 20th anniversary of the attacks.
Bush, who was president during the attacks, commended the courage of the Flight 93 passengers and crew who are believed to have foiled an attack on the U.S. Capitol by leading the plane to crash in rural Pennsylvania.
“The 33 passengers and seven crew of Flight 93 could have been any group of citizens selected by fate. In a sense, they stood in for us all," Bush said. "The terrorists soon discovered that a random group of Americans is an exceptional group of people.”
He encouraged Americans to put aside their political differences in the spirit of what he saw after 9/11.
“So much of our politics has become a naked appeal to anger, fear and resentment," Bush said. “On America’s day of trial and grief, I saw millions of people instinctively grab their neighbor’s hand and rally to the cause of one another."
Vice President Kamala Harris began her remarks at the Flight 93 memorial with words for those who lost loved ones on Sept. 11.
“So many in our nation -- too many in our nation -- have deeply felt the passage of time these past 20 years," she said. "Please know your nation sees you and we stand with you and we support you.”
Pentagon Honors 148 Lives Lost in 9/11 Attacks
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says that “we remember not just who our fallen teammates were, but the mission that they shared.”
Austin made the prepared remarks at a Pentagon ceremony Saturday marking the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
He continued, “We recall their common commitment to defend our republic … and to squarely face new dangers.’’
Austin noted that “almost a quarter of the citizens who we defend today were born after 9/11,” including many of the 13 American service members killed in the recent attack in Afghanistan.
He says that “as the years march on, we must ensure that all our fellow Americans know and understand what happened here on 9/11 … and in Manhattan … and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.”
The Pentagon chief says that “it is our responsibility to remember. And it is our duty to defend our democracy.”
He says, “We cannot know what the next 20 years will bring. We cannot know what new dangers they will carry. … But we do know that America will always lead.”
And to the audience at the Pentagon commemoration, the defense secretary said, “We still work here. We still remember here. We still uphold our values here. With clear heads and fearless hearts.”
9/11 Commemoration Begins at Ground Zero in NYC
The 9/11 anniversary commemoration at ground zero has begun with a tolling bell and a moment of silence, exactly 20 years after the start of the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil.
President Joe Biden, former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, members of Congress, and other dignitaries joined a crowd of victims’ relatives Saturday on the Sept. 11 memorial plaza in New York. The memorial stands where the World Trade Center’s twin towers were rammed and felled by hijacked planes.
Observances are also planned at the two other sites where the 9/11 conspirators crashed their hijacked jets: the Pentagon and a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Biden is scheduled to pay respects at all three places, and former President George W. Bush is to speak at the Pennsylvania ceremony.
In Photos: America Remembers 9/11
Sept. 11 to Be Marked With Reading of Nearly 3,000 Names
The 9/11 Memorial and Museum will pay tribute to those killed at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, during the annual commemoration ceremony.
Family members will read the names of the fallen — 2,983 of them, including all the victims from the three Sept. 11 attack sites and six people who died when terrorists set off a truck bomb under the towers in 1993.
It will begin with a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m to mark when the first hijacked plane struck the north tower of the World Trade Center and continue through the morning with pauses to mark when the south tower and Pentagon were struck, when Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania, and when the towers fell.
Six Moments of Silence Observed:
- 8:46 a.m. – Flight 11 crashes into north tower
- 9:03 a.m. – Flight 175 crashes into south tower
- 9:37 a.m. – Flight 77 crashes into Pentagon
- 9:59 a.m. – South Tower collapses
- 10:03 a.m. – Flight 93 crashes in Shanksville
- 10:28 a.m. – North Tower collapses
The Man Who Told President Bush ‘America Is Under Attack' on 9/11 Tells His Story
It was 90 minutes frozen in time.
The period, from when America learned the first of two jetliners had crashed into the World Trade Center, shortly before 9 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, to when the second of its two towers collapsed, killing thousands, ranks among the most emotional, deadly, and traumatic moments in U.S. history.
And for those who watched the attacks unfold — whether it be in front of a television or standing alongside President George W. Bush — the haunting memories are still hard to shake, 20 years later.
“I remember every minute of that day,” said Andrew Card, the former chief of staff to President Bush from 2001 to 2006. “I was completely focused on being cool, calm, collected, and objective to help him make tough decisions….[but emotions] later would catch up with me.”