As the United States honors the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks that shattered and changed American life, commemorations and memorials were held nationwide Saturday to remember the victims and first responders.
In New York, the ceremony at Ground Zero began with the first moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. — the time Flight 11 struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center. The last moment of silence came at 10:28 a.m., in observance of the fall of the North Tower. The reading of the names of the victims, an annual tradition, concluded at about 1 p.m.
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President Biden stopped by the Shanksville Volunteer Fire Department in Pennsylvania after paying tribute to 9/11 victims.
Vice President Harris said in Shanksville that the dozens of passengers of Flight 93 responded in unity in “the most dire of circumstances.”
Former president George W. Bush, who said the victims of 9/11 “must always have an honored place,” warned that domestic terrorism could be as much of a threat as terrorism originating from abroad.
The young niece of Christopher M. Mozzillo, a New York firefighter who died responding to the terrorist attacks, said she misses the uncle she never had a chance to meet. “Even though I never met you in person, I still miss you a lot,” she said.
Taliban flag flies over Kabul presidential palace as world commemorates 9/11 attacks
On the day the United States and the world commemorated the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the Taliban flew its flag over the presidential palace in Kabul, where until last month the tricolor Afghanistan national flag flew.
The white banner with the Shahada (testimony) written across itwas raised at an 11 a.m. ceremony Saturday to mark the beginning of work for the Taliban’s caretaker government, said Ahmadullah Muttaqi, multimedia chief of the Taliban’s cultural commission, according to the Associated Press. Muttaqi said the group’s new prime minister, Mohammad Hasah Akhund, raised the flag.
The Taliban did not issue a formal statement on the anniversary of the al-Qaeda terrorist attacks that were a prelude to its loss of power 20 years ago. But the image of the flag served as another reminder of the militant group’s stunning return after two decades of fighting U.S.-led forces. The Taliban overwhelmed Afghan troops and stormed back into Kabul last month as the United States was ending its military presence there.
Since 2001, the U.S.-led coalition has substantially weakened al-Qaeda, and the Taliban has said that it would stop the international terrorist group from using Afghanistan as its base — though some ties between the two groups remain, outside observers say.
This story was originally published in The Washington Post on Sept. 16, 2001.
A few minutes before 8, Tuesday morning. The day had broken clean and clear and sweet on the East Coast. Summer was over mentally, if not officially.
It was time to get to work, and people were up and at it. The saddest and most relentlessly horrific day in modern American existence started in the most ordinary ways.
American Airlines Flight 11 had backed away from Gate 26 of Terminal B at Boston’s Logan Airport and was rolling toward the runway for a six-hour flight to Los Angeles. Edmund Glazer, in Seat 4A, first class, heard the flight attendant instruct the passengers to put away their cellphones and computers, but could not resist punching in his wife Candy’s number anyway.
He’d left her in the darkness of their Wellesley home and driven away in their black SUV. He was a top financial guy for a high-tech firm, and though business was rough, life seemed good. He’d lost 40 pounds. He and Candy were feeling close. He was on board.
Bob Ley was at home on his treadmill, watching TV, when he saw the first plane hit the World Trade Center. Ley, an ESPN “SportsCenter” anchor, was supposed to be off that day in 2001. But as ESPN’s de facto hard-news specialist, he was soon on the phone with an executive, discussing whether, and how, the country’s leading sports network should cover the news.
Then the second plane hit.
“I said, ‘I’ll be there in an hour,’” Ley recalled telling his higher-ups.
Once he arrived at ESPN’s Bristol, Conn., headquarters, Ley and colleagues debated how to handle the day. ESPN had chosen to simulcast the feed from its sister network, ABC, in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, and Ley recalled that some in the room believed they should stick with ABC through the night. But Ley thought ESPN had a duty to report the news from the world of sports, including athlete reactions and game cancellations.
President Biden faces major obstacles to achieving his goal of closing the prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, including abiding opposition in Congress and a dysfunctional military trial process that has not yielded a verdict — or even a trial — for the men accused in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
This week, the five men charged with helping to plan those attacks, including self-described mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, appeared in a pretrial hearing at the prison, the first such occurrence since the coronavirus pandemic largely halted the already slow-moving court process.
That their trial, delayed by years of initial proceedings, is not expected to begin until at least 2022 is a stark example of the problems and dark detours that have characterized the detention operation since the first terrorism suspects arrived there after the 9/11 attacks.
The high-security facility, located at a U.S. naval base in Cuba’s southeast, has receded from the headlines as its population has dwindled from over 700 at its peak to 39 today, but Guantánamo remains a global symbol of U.S. excesses after 9/11, including the brutal mistreatment of prisoners and the detention of suspects for two decades without charge.
The demonic choreography of al-Qaeda’s attack on the United States instantly rendered Sept. 11 the most documented act of terrorism in human history. As the North Tower of the World Trade Center burned, cameras already on the scene filmed the second plane soaring into the South Tower. Those appalling images, infinitely reproduced, colonized the minds and imaginations of a generation.
Almost as quickly as the U.S. military geared up to unleash America’s retribution, the publishing industry jumped into active duty. A nation seething with rage and incredulity was desperate to know how the attacks of 9/11 happened, who carried them out and why. Within days, previously published books — such as Ahmed Rashid’s “Taliban” and Yossef Bodansky’s “Bin Laden” — shot up on the bestseller list. Sales of Bibles, Korans, spiritual guides, prophecy titles and works on comparative religion ascended toward the heavens.
Advances in technology allowed the production and distribution of an unprecedented number of new books in record time. On Oct. 1 — while Ground Zero was still burning — students and professors at the New York University Department of Journalism published “09/11 8:48 am,” an anthology of accounts by survivors and witnesses.
After 9/11, weather forecasting played a pivotal role in Afghanistan military operations
By Jonathan D. Sawtelle7:45 p.m.
Not long after southerly winds moved smoke from the destroyed World Trade Center Towers, three young highly specialized Air Force meteorologists were directed to plan a mission to collect atmospheric data in support of the first U.S. raid into Afghanistan.
In October 2001, the trio began reconnaissance from a secret vantage point in the remote mountains of South Asia. They collected the data and dispatched a transmission through secure text to the task force commander.
In response, the commanding general launched the first operation of the war and leveraged the first of what would become tens of thousands of weather forecasts in support of operations to topple the Taliban, rout al-Qaeda, kill Osama bin Laden, cultivate an Afghan national security force, establish and protect an infant democracy and repel the Islamic State. In recent weeks, forecasts also supported the withdrawal from Afghanistan, including of all forces and diplomats, and ultimately the last U.S. soldier.
NEW YORK — Joe Bonamo has pieced together who his father was from his friends and former colleagues in the New York Fire Department.
He still remembers being a 4-year-old sitting in front of the TV with his mother, watching attacks that would change their lives and take Frank Bonamo’s.
He was far too young to understand what it meant.
Bonamo, one of many 9/11 children who were young or unborn when their parents died, said his mother did a “great job” raising her two children after the terrorist attack killed her husband.
His father’s former colleagues have been like a surrogate family, Bonamo said Saturday at the World Trade Center memorial site after the names of about 3,000 victims were read over the course of several hours. They have helped him cobble together an image of who his father was — a loyal friend and firefighter who had a gift for making his buddies laugh.
A solemn President Biden on Saturday marked two decades since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, leading a day of nationwide grief and remembrance at all three sites of the terrorist attacks and emphasizing the importance of memorializing the painful assault that left nearly 3,000 people dead.
Biden deliberately stayed in the background as he participated in the anniversary of the attacks for the first time as the nation’s commander in chief, a milestone that came less than a month after he formally ended the war in Afghanistan, which began in response to the attacks.
Biden began his day at the Sept. 11 memorial in Lower Manhattan, alongside dozens of other political dignitaries including former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. He later traveled to Shanksville, Pa., to meet privately with family members of the victims of Flight 93 and finally, to the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial in Arlington, Va., to participate in another wreath-laying ceremony.
Todd C. Young and Tim Kaine make an unlikely Senate duo to lead the effort at rewriting the rules of military engagement in fighting enemies abroad.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Young had his last day as a low-level assistant at the Heritage Foundation, a few weeks before starting as a Senate aide. The former Marine intelligence officer was in a bagel shop a few blocks from the Capitol when the second plane hit the twin towers in Manhattan.
Kaine had resigned the day before from being mayor of Richmond to focus on his campaign for lieutenant governor, expecting to do local news interviews all day near the state Capitol.
Two decades later — after thousands of U.S. soldiers lost their lives in the ensuing wars, which cost trillions of dollars — Young (R-Ind.) and Kaine (D-Va.) are trying to shame their fellow lawmakers into taking ownership of American foreign policy.
Ever since Congress approved a war resolution a week after the 9/11 attacks, lawmakers have allowed two Republican and two Democratic presidents virtual free rein over fighting terrorism.
“Where were you on September 11th?” Most Americans over a certain age have a 9/11 story — of the moment they heard the news of the terrorist attacks, or of anxiously calling family members to make sure they were okay.
In the 20 years since the attacks, that day for some may feel like a slowly fading memory. But the direct consequences of that Tuesday in 2001 are playing out in the news in front of us every day.
Post Reports is telling the story of 9/11 through the eyes of our newsroom. We spoke with Post colleagues who covered it — from senior editors, to reporters at the Pentagon, to an intern.
California sheriff urges wariness of future attacks
By Miranda Green6:39 p.m.
ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. — Addressing the crowd of residents gathered to mourn and memorialize the victims who died 20 years ago, Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes had a warning.
“The threat of terrorism is still real. While the president recently declared an end to the Afghanistan War, we know the fight against terrorism does not end. Those that seek to terrorize still exist,” he said to more than a hundred people Saturday. “I’m concerned that as a country we are reverting to a Sept. 10, 2001, mentality. We are forgetting the difficult and unfortunate lessons of the day.”
The audience cheered Barnes, who has been sheriff since 2018 and led Orange County in the past year in resisting California’s coronavirus pandemic mask rules.
“Programs, practices and resources put into place after the attacks have eroded over the last 20 years,” Barnes said. “We must put ourselves back on the right foot, removing bureaucratic barriers to law enforcement communication, securing our nation’s border and providing law enforcement with sufficient anti-terrorism resources.”
The comments come four days before Californians are to vote on whether to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). Orange County residents have been at the center of the effort to replace him. Some attendees wore T-shirts supporting the recall.
“These are all common-sense solutions that will keep us safe and will continue to keep us safe,” Barnes said. “The time to act is now.”
How a Maryland punter from New York launched his team’s effort to commemorate 9/11
Every spring, Anthony Pecorella and his family attended a football game in Brooklyn. A young Pecorella, whose head reached his dad’s hip, wore a jersey that matched his father’s No. 71 and stood with him for the coin toss. For a few years after his dad retired from the semiprofessional team, he still played in this annual game against the New York City Fire Department because of what it meant. The family never missed this game, even after Pecorella’s dad, also named Anthony, migrated to the stands to watch with the small crowd. And as Pecorella grew up, he learned why this game mattered so much to his dad and everyone else.
As a kid on Long Island, Pecorella never needed a formal lesson about what happened close to home on Sept. 11, 2001, a few months after he was born. His parents didn’t try to hide it from Pecorella or his twin sister, Alessia. The painful toll of loss touched various aspects of life throughout his community — inside elementary school classrooms, during conversations when his dad talked about the friends who died, and always at this charity football game, known as the Daniel Suhr game, which prompted Pecorella to ask about the man whom they gathered to honor each April.
ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. — Residents attending Saturday’s 9/11 memorial event at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum largely donned red, white and blue, showing their respect for a time some looked back on with equal parts sadness and wistfulness.
“What my husband and I always say is that we miss Sept. 12, . It was the day after everything happened and nothing else mattered. We all loved each other, cared about each other,” said Kristen Chamberland, 37. “It’s not like that anymore. It’s really, really sad.”
Overhead, three helicopters from nearby fire departments flew in a formation, whirling over crowds in a small airshow. Local people looked on, some wiping away tears behind sunglasses, amid a procession of firetrucks, motorcycles and a big rig carrying 23 tons of the steel wreckage from one of the World Trade Center towers.
For most attendees, their first memories of Sept. 11, 2001, began shortly after getting out of bed.
Chamberland was driving to school when the radio told her that the World Trade Center had been hit.
“I was 17, confused, worried and scared,” she remembers.
Her mother didn’t let her and her brother go to school the next day, concerned that new attacks could target the West Coast.
On Saturday, Chamberland brought her 5-year-old daughter, Moon, to the events.
“She wants to be a firefighter, so 20 years is really important to us. She’s at the age where she can understand what 9/11 is about,” Chamberland said. “Right now we tell her it was a day where firefighters died trying to do their job saving people.”
Richard Frauenzimmer, 75, remembers that he was getting ready for his job as a car mechanic in Yorba Linda when he heard the news that both towers had been hit.
“ ‘We’re at war,’ ” the military veteran said he told his wife that day.
He says he’ll never forget the feeling as if the United States was under attack, a moment that brought him back to his time in Vietnam.
“My wife says I’m too patriotic, I get too emotional at these things,” Frauenzimmer said of attending Saturday’s events. “I had to do it. It’s important to me.”