9/11 attacks still reverberate as US celebrates 21st anniversary – Daily Local

By JENNIFER PELTZ, KAREN MATTHEWS and JULIE WALKER

NEW YORK (AP) — Americans remembered 9/11 on Sunday with tearful tributes and pleas to “never forget,” 21 years after the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil.

Bonita Mentis set out to read the names of the victims at the ground zero ceremony wearing a necklace with a picture of her slain sister, Shevonne Mentis, a 25-year-old Guyanese immigrant who worked for a financial company.

“It’s been 21 years, but it’s not 21 years for us. It feels like yesterday,” Mentis said. “The wounds are still fresh.”

“No matter how many years have passed, no one can really understand what happened that day,” she added.

Relatives of the victims and dignitaries also gathered at the other two attack sites, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.

More than two decades later, 9/11 remains a point of reflection on the hijacked aircraft attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people, reconfigured national security policy and sparked a US ‘war on terror’ in the whole world. Sunday’s celebrations, which follow a milestone anniversary last year, come just over a month after a US drone strike killed a key al-Qaida figure who helped plan the attacks September 11, Ayman al-Zawahri.

Pierre Roldan, who lost his cousin Carlos Lillo, a paramedic, said “we had some form of justice” when a US raid killed Osama bin Laden in 2011.

“Now that Al-Zawahri is gone, at least we continue to get that justice,” Roldan said.

The 9/11 attacks also sparked – for a time – a sense of national pride and unity for many, while subjecting Muslim Americans to years of suspicion and bigotry and sparking a debate about the balance between security and civil liberties. In both subtle and simple ways, the aftermath of 9/11 ripples through American politics and public life to this day.

But like other parents of victims, Jay Saloman fears American awareness of 9/11 is slipping.

“It was a terrorist attack on our country that day. And theoretically everyone should remember that and, you know, take precautions and be careful,” said Saloman, who lost his brother.

Like a growing number of those who read zero-sum names, the namesake nephew of firefighter Jimmy Riches had not yet been born when his parent died. But the boy took the podium to honor him.

“You are always in my heart. And I know you are watching over me,” he said after reading some of the victims’ names.

More than 70 of Sekou Siby’s colleagues perished at Windows on the World, the restaurant atop the mall’s north tower. Siby had to work that morning until another cook asked her to change shifts.

The Ivorian immigrant struggled to understand such horror in a country where he had come to seek a better life. And he struggled to form friendships as close as those he had had at Windows on the World. It was too painful, he learned, to get attached to people when “you have no control over what happens to them next”.

“Every 9/11 is a reminder of what I have lost and can never get back,” Siby said as the anniversary approaches. He is now president and CEO of ROC United, a restaurant worker advocacy group that evolved from a post-9/11 relief center.

Speaking at the Pentagon on Sunday, President Joe Biden recalled seeing smoke rising from the US military headquarters hit on 9/11 when he was a senator. He vowed the United States would continue to work to root out terrorist plots and called on Americans to stand up for democracy beyond the anniversary.

“We have an obligation, a duty, a responsibility to defend, preserve and protect our democracy – the very democracy that guarantees the right to freedom that those 9/11 terrorists sought to bury in searing fire, smoke and ashes,” the Democrat said.

First Lady Jill Biden was due to speak in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where one of the hijacked planes crashed after passengers and crew attempted to storm the cockpit as hijackers the air was heading towards Washington. Al-Qaeda conspirators had taken control of the jets to use as missiles loaded with passengers.

Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff joined the celebration at the National September 11 Memorial in New York, but by tradition no political figures speak. The observance instead focuses on the relatives of the victims reading aloud the names of the dead.

Nikita Shah went there wearing a T-shirt that bore the de facto epigraph of the annual commemoration – “never forget” – and the name of her slain father, Jayesh Shah.

The family then moved to Houston but often return to New York for the anniversary to be “surrounded by people who kind of went through the same kind of grief and feelings after 9/11,” Shah said. She was 10 when her father was killed.

Readers often add personal remarks that form an alloy of American feelings about 9/11 — grief, anger, toughness, appreciation for first responders and the military, appeals to patriotism, hopes for peace, the occasional political jab, and a poignant narrative. graduation ceremonies. , weddings, births and daily newspapers that the victims missed.

Some relatives also lament that a nation that united – to some extent – after the attacks has since splintered. So much so that federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies, which were reshaped to focus on international terrorism after 9/11, now see the threat of domestic violent extremism as just as urgent.

“It took a tragedy to unite us. It shouldn’t take another tragedy to unite us again,” said Andrew Colabella, whose cousin, John DiGiovanni, died in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing that presaged 9/11.

Beyond the attack sites, other communities across the country marked the day with candlelight vigils, interfaith services and other commemorations. Some Americans have joined volunteer projects on a day federally recognized as both Patriots’ Day and a National Day of Service and Remembrance.

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Associated Press reporter Colleen Long contributed from Washington.

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