ARLINGTON, Va. – President Biden laid a wreath at the Pentagon, First Lady Jill Biden was speaking in Shanksville, Pa., and the families of the victims gathered in New York on Sunday as the nation marked 21 years since the 11 September 2001, terror attacks that shook the world and killed nearly 3,000 Americans.
Events at all three sites included a reading of the names of those who died.
Other communities across the country held candlelight vigils, interfaith services and other commemorations. Some Americans join volunteer projects on a day recognized by the federal government as Patriots Day and a National Day of Service and Remembrance.
“America itself changed that day,” Biden told a gloomy crowd in the rain outside the Pentagon. “But what we will not change, and will never change, is the character of this nation that the terrorists thought they could hurt.”
In New York, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum held its annual ceremony, with family members of the victims again reading the names of the victims.
Six moments of silence will be observed during the ceremony to mark when each of the World Trade Center towers was struck, when they fell, when a plane slammed into the Pentagon and when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in a Shanksville field.
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The namesake nephew of firefighter Jimmy Riches was not born when his uncle died in the towers, but young Riches took to the podium to pay his respects.
“You are always in my heart. And I know you are watching over me,” he said after reading some of the victims’ names.
Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff will also be present at the events in New York, but by tradition, no political figures speak at the ground zero ceremony.
In Shanksville, the names of passengers and crew will be read with the ringing of remembrance bells beginning at 10:03 a.m. when Flight 93 crashed. The plane crashed after passengers and crew attempted to storm the cockpit.
The attacks were the work of 19 al-Qaeda conspirators who commandeered two passenger planes from Boston, one from Newark, NJ, and one from Washington-Dulles. They turned the planes into weapons, two of which slammed into and overturned New York’s Twin Towers, one hitting the Pentagon and the other, likely aimed at the United States Capitol, crashing into Shanksville Field .
The deadly morning sparked a global “war on terror” highlighted by two decades of fighting in Afghanistan and the 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden, founder of the Islamist militant group. The war on terror continues today – a month ago a US drone strike killed Ayman al-Zawahri, another key al-Qaeda figure who helped plan the 9/11 attacks.
“America’s resolve to keep our country safe will never waver,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said at the Pentagon commemoration. “We will always remember, we will always watch over this democracy. And we will always seek to be worthy of those we have lost.”
Contribute: The Associated Press