US marks 21st anniversary of 9/11 terror attacks

The attacks have cast a long shadow on the personal lives of thousands of people who have survived, responded or lost loved ones.

NEW YORK — 21 years after the deadliest terrorist attack on US soil, Americans commemorate 9/11 with minutes of silence, reading of victims’ names, volunteerism and other tributes.

Victims’ families and dignitaries will gather Sunday at the sites where hijacked jets crashed on September 11, 2001 — the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.

Other communities across the country celebrate the day with candlelight vigils, interfaith services, and other commemorations. Some Americans participate in volunteer projects on a day recognized federally as both Patriot Day and the National Day of Service and Remembrance.

The celebrations follow an eventful anniversary last year. It came weeks after the chaotic and humiliating end to the Afghan war, which the US launched in response to the attacks.

But while this 9/11 may be less of a turning point, it remains a point for reflection on the attack that killed nearly 3,000 people, unleashed a US global “war on terror” and reconfigured national security policy.

It also inspired – for a time – a sense of national pride and unity in many, while exposing Muslim Americans to years of suspicion and bigotry and sparking debate about the balance between security and civil liberties. The aftermath of 9/11 has subtly and clearly permeated American politics and public life to this day.

And the attacks have cast a long shadow over the personal lives of thousands of people who survived, responded, or lost loved ones, friends and colleagues.

More than 70 employees of Sekou Siby died at Windows on the World, the restaurant atop the commercial center’s north tower. Siby was supposed to be working that morning until another cook asked him to change shifts.

Siby never took a job at the restaurant again; it would have brought back too many memories. The Ivorian immigrant wrestled with how to understand this horror in a country he had come to in search of a better life.

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He had a hard time forming the kind of close, familial friendships he and his Windows on the World associates had shared. He had learned that it was too painful to commit to people when “you don’t have control over what’s going to happen to them next.”

“Every 9/11 is a reminder of what I lost and can never regain,” said Siby, who is now President and CEO of ROC United. The restaurant workers’ advocacy group grew out of a relief center for Windows on the World workers who lost their jobs when the Twin Towers collapsed.

On Sunday, President Joe Biden plans to address the Pentagon and lay a wreath while First Lady Jill Biden is scheduled to speak in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where one of the hijacked planes crashed after passengers and crew tried to storm the cockpit the hijackers were piloting toward Washington. Al Qaeda conspirators had seized control of the jets to use them as passenger-filled missiles.

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Vice President Kamala Harris and husband Doug Emhoff are expected at the National Sept. 11 Memorial in New York, but traditionally no political figures speak at the Ground Zero ceremony. Instead, it focuses on the victims’ relatives reading the names of the dead aloud.

Readers often add personal notes that form an amalgamation of American feelings about 9/11 – sadness, anger, resilience, appreciation for first responders and the military, appeals to patriotism, hope for peace, occasional political barbs, and a poignant review of the graduation ceremonies , marriages, births and everyday life that the victims missed.

Some relatives also lament that a nation that somehow came together after the attacks has since fallen apart. So much so that federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies, reorganized after September 11, 2001 to focus on international terrorism, now see the threat of domestic violent extremism as just as urgent. US marks 21st anniversary of 9/11 terror attacks

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