U.S. marks 9/11 anniversary with sombre tributes, new monument

Americans commemorated Sept. 11 with sombre tributes, volunteer projects and a new monument to victims, after a year when two attacks demonstrated the enduring threat of extremism in the country's biggest city.

Trumps attend observance at new memorial in field near Shanksville, Pa.

Mourners visit the National 9/11 Memorial as they listen to victims' names being read out during ceremonies to mark the 17th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York on Tuesday. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Americans looked back on 9/11 Tuesday with tears and sombre tributes as U.S. President Donald Trump hailed "the moment when America fought back" on one of the hijacked planes used as weapons in the deadliest attack on U.S. soil.

Victims' relatives said prayers for their country, pleaded for national unity and pressed officials not to use the 2001 attacks as a political tool in a polarized nation.

Seventeen years after losing her husband, Margie Miller came from her suburban home to join thousands of relatives, survivors, rescuers and others on a misty morning at the memorial plaza where the World Trade Center's twin towers once stood.

"To me, he is here. This is my holy place," his widow said before the ceremony began a moment of silence and tolling bells at 8:46 a.m. ET, the time when the trade centre was hit by the first of two planes. Victims' relatives who had brought signs bearing photos of their loved ones wordlessly held them high.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence headed to the two other places where hijacked planes crashed.

The Trumps observed the anniversary at the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, Pa. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

The president and Melania Trump joined an observance at the Sept. 11 memorial in a field near Shanksville, Pa., where one of the jetliners crashed after 40 passengers and crew on board realized what was happening and several passengers tried to storm the cockpit.

Calling it "the moment when America fought back," Trump said the fallen "took control of their destiny and changed the course of history."

They "joined the immortal ranks of American heroes," said Trump.

Pence places a wreath during the observance ceremony at the Pentagon. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Pence attended a ceremony at the Pentagon. He recalled the heroism of service members and civilians who repeatedly went back into the Pentagon to rescue survivors.

The terrorists "hoped to break our spirit, and they failed," he said.

'Tribute in Light'

At the United Nations, Security Council members stood for a moment of silence, led by U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley.

Hours after the ceremony, two powerful light beams soared soar into the night sky from lower Manhattan in the annual "Tribute in Light."

The Tribute in Light is seen in the sky above the Lower Manhattan area of New York from across the Hudson River. (Andres Kudacki/Associated Press)

The 9/11 commemorations are by now familiar rituals, focused on reading the names of the dead. But each year at Ground Zero, victims' relatives infuse the ceremony with personal messages of remembrance, inspiration and concern.

For Nicholas Haros Jr., that concern is officials who make comparisons to 9/11 or invoke it for political purposes.

"Stop. Stop," implored Haros, who lost his 76-year-old mother, Frances. "Please stop using the bones and ashes of our loved ones as props in your political theater. Their lives, sacrifices and deaths are worth so much more. Let's not trivialize them."

Nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks, when international extremism hit home in a way it previously hadn't for many Americans. Sept. 11 still shapes American policy, politics and everyday experiences in places from airports to office buildings, even if it's less of a constant presence in the public consciousness after 17 years.

'I don't live my life in complacency'

A stark reminder came not long after last year's anniversary: A truck mowed down people, killing eight, on a bike path within a few blocks of the World Trade Centre on Halloween.

In December, a would-be suicide bomber set off a pipe bomb in a subway passageway near Times Square, authorities said. They said suspects in both attacks were inspired by the Islamic State extremist group.

The recent attacks in New York, as well as attacks elsewhere, were on Miller's mind as she arrived Tuesday.

"You don't want to live in fear, but it's very real," she said. 

The World Trade Center site in New York smouldered for weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. (U.S. Navy Journalist 1st Class Preston Keres via Reuters)

Debra Sinodinos, who lost her firefighter cousin Peter Carroll and works near the trade centre, said she tries not to let the recent attacks unnerve her. 

"You have to move on," she said as she headed into the anniversary ceremony with her extended family. "Otherwise, you'd live in fear."

Survivors still dealing with illnesses

Memorials to Sept. 11 continue to grow at Shanksville, where the Tower of Voices will eventually include a wind chime for each of the 40 people killed there, and ground zero, where work is to begin soon on a pathway honouring rescue and recovery workers. 

People attending a dedication Sunday stand around the 28-metre Tower of Voices at the Flight 93 national memorial in Shanksville, Pa. The tower contains 40 wind chimes representing the 40 people that perished in the crash of Flight 93 in the attack. (Keith Srakocic/Associated Press)

It will serve as a way to honour those who became sick or died from exposure to toxins released when the Trade Centre's twin towers collapsed. Researchers have documented elevated rates of respiratory ailments, post-traumatic stress disorder and other illnesses among people who spent time in the rubble.

About 38,500 people have applied to a compensation fund, and over $3.9 billion US in claims have been approved.

Meanwhile, rebuilding continues. A subway station destroyed on Sept. 11 finally reopened Saturday. In June, doors opened at the 80-storey 3 World Trade Center, one of several rebuilt office towers that have been constructed or planned at the site. A performing arts centre is rising.

However, work was suspended in December on replacing a Greek Orthodox church crushed in the attacks; the project hit financial problems.

The World Trade Center site seen from an upper floor of 3 World Trade Center in New York. (Mark Lennihan/Associated Press)


  • A previous version of this story included a photo with a caption that cited 5,000 dead and missing in the days after the attack. In fact, it was later determined that about 3,000 people died.
    Sep 11, 2018 1:28 PM ET