facebook linkedin twitter

US Marks 20 Years Since 9/11, in Shadow of Afghan War’s End

September 11, 2021by Jennifer Peltz, Associated Press
Smoke billows from one of the towers of the World Trade Center as flames and debris explode from the second tower, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. (AP Photo/Chao Soi Cheong)

NEW YORK (AP) — Twenty years ago, the 11th of September dawned as just a date. By midnight, it was 9/11, the staggering starting point for a new era of terror, war, politics, patriotism and tragedy.

The U.S. marks the milestone anniversary Saturday under the pall of a pandemic and in the shadow of a frantic withdrawal from Afghanistan, which fell to the same militant rulers who gave safe haven to the plotters of the 2001 attacks.

“It’s hard because you hoped that this would just be a different time and a different world. But sometimes history starts to repeat itself and not in the best of ways,” said Thea Trinidad, who lost her father in the attacks and has signed up to read victims’ names at the ceremony at ground zero in New York.

President Joe Biden is scheduled to travel to all three attack sites: New York’s World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

In a video released Friday night, he mourned the ongoing losses of 9/11. 

“Children have grown up without parents, and parents have suffered without children,” said Biden, a childhood friend of the father of a Sept. 11 victim, Davis Grier Sezna Jr. 

But the president also spotlighted what he called the “central lesson” of Sept. 11: “that at our most vulnerable … unity is our greatest strength.”

Former President George W. Bush, the nation’s leader on 9/11, is due at the Pennsylvania memorial and his successor, Barack Obama, at ground zero. The only other post-9/11 U.S. president, Donald Trump, is planning to be in New York, in addition to providing commentary at a boxing match  in Florida in the evening.

Other observances — from a wreath-laying in Portland, Maine, to a fire engine parade in Guam — are planned across a country now full of 9/11 plaques, statues and commemorative gardens.

Using hijacked planes as missiles, the assailants inflicted the deadliest terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, taking nearly 3,000 lives, toppling the twin towers and ushering in an age of fear.

Security was redefined, with changes to airport checkpoints,  police practices and the government’s surveillance powers. In the years that followed, virtually any sizeable explosion, crash or act of violence seemed to raise a dire question: “Is it terrorism?” Some ideological violence and plots did follow, though federal officials and the public  have lately become increasingly concerned with threats from domestic extremists after years of focusing on international terror groups in the wake of 9/11.

New York faced questions early on about whether it could ever recover from the blow to its financial hub and restore a feeling of safety among the crowds and skyscrapers. New Yorkers ultimately rebuilt a more populous and prosperous city but had to reckon  with the tactics of an empowered post-9/11 police department and a widened gap between haves and have-nots.

A “war on terror” led to invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, where the longest U.S. war ended last month with a hasty, massive airlift punctuated by a suicide bombing that killed 169 Afghans and 13 American service members and was attributed to a branch of the Islamic State extremist group. The U.S. is now concerned  that al-Qaida, the terror network behind 9/11, may regroup in Afghanistan.

Two decades after helping to triage and treat injured colleagues at the Pentagon  on Sept. 11, retired Army Col. Malcolm Bruce Westcott is saddened and frustrated by the continued threat of terrorism.

“I always felt that my generation, my military cohort, would take care of it — we wouldn’t pass it on to anybody else,” said Westcott, of Greensboro, Georgia. “And we passed it on.”

For Angelique Tung, who was at the trade center for a business meeting on 9/11 and escaped down 77 flights of stairs, the U.S. pullout from Afghanistan stirred empathy for troops who served there. Some now wonder whether their efforts and sacrifices made a difference, which makes Tung think of a question she has asked herself since surviving Sept. 11.

“I hope that, after 20 years, other people are asking that question: What good can come from this?” said Tung, of Wellesley, Massachusetts. 

Sept. 11 propelled a surge of shared grief and common purpose, but it soon gave way.

Muslim Americans endured  suspicion, surveillance  and hate crimes. The quest to understand the catastrophic toll of the terror attacks prompted changes in building design and emergency communications, but it also spurred conspiracy theories that seeded a culture of skepticism. Schisms and resentments grew over immigration, the balance between tolerance and vigilance, the meaning of patriotism, the proper way to honor the dead, and the scope of a promise to “never forget.”

Trinidad was 10 when she overheard her dad, Michael, saying goodbye to her mother by phone  from the burning trade center. She remembers the pain but also the fellowship of the days that followed, when all of New York “felt like it was family.”

“Now, when I feel like the world is so divided, I just wish that we can go back to that,” said Trinidad, of Orlando, Florida. “I feel like it would have been such a different world if we had just been able to hang on to that feeling.”

In The News

September 26, 2021
by Dan McCue
'A Time of Intensity' Ahead, As Budget Committee Advances Spending Bill

WASHINGTON - The House Budget Committee voted 20-17 on Saturday in favor of the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill, effectively... Read More

WASHINGTON - The House Budget Committee voted 20-17 on Saturday in favor of the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill, effectively setting up a vote in the full House on the sweeping package in a matter of days. One Democrat, Rep. Scott Peters, of California, joined all... Read More

September 26, 2021
by Dan McCue
In Ohio, Redistricting is Becoming a Much Litigated Event

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The lawsuits keep coming over the ongoing redistricting effort in Ohio, where critics, in multiple court filings,... Read More

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The lawsuits keep coming over the ongoing redistricting effort in Ohio, where critics, in multiple court filings, claim Republicans are openly disregarding the rules established by public referendum six years ago. The latest lawsuit over the newly drawn legislative district map was filed... Read More

September 24, 2021
by Dan McCue
Looming Strikes Threaten to Shut Down Most US Film and Television Production

LOS ANGELES, Calif. - It could be the biggest labor action in Hollywood since a Writers Guild of America strike... Read More

LOS ANGELES, Calif. - It could be the biggest labor action in Hollywood since a Writers Guild of America strike crippled the entertainment industry for some 14 weeks in late 2007 and early 2008. Beginning next week, members of the International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees... Read More

September 24, 2021
by Tom Ramstack
CDC Director Overrides Vote to Broaden Eligibility for Vaccines

ATLANTA, Ga.-- Dr. Rochelle Walensky made an unusual break Friday from a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory... Read More

ATLANTA, Ga.-- Dr. Rochelle Walensky made an unusual break Friday from a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory panel by overruling its guidance on booster doses for the Pfizer/BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices approved the boosters Thursday for anyone 65... Read More

September 24, 2021
by Dan McCue
San Francisco Airport Nation’s First to Mandate COVID Vaccines for All Workers

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. -- Starting this week, everyone employed at San Francisco International Airport must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19... Read More

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. -- Starting this week, everyone employed at San Francisco International Airport must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to report to work, according  to a joint statement from the airport and Mayor London Breed. The airport is the first in the country to adopt... Read More

September 24, 2021
by Dan McCue
House Votes to Guarantee Woman’s Right to an Abortion

WASHINGTON -- With wrangling over a $3.5 trillion spending plan seeming to tie the House in knots in recent days,... Read More

WASHINGTON -- With wrangling over a $3.5 trillion spending plan seeming to tie the House in knots in recent days, Democrats pivoted Friday to take on a Texas law that threatens to unravel protections afforded women by the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Early... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top