Twenty-one years after the September 11 terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 Americans, the wounds from that carnage are still fresh for Bonita Mentis.
His sister, Shevonne Mentis, 25, was working for a World Trade Center finance company when two of the four planes commandeered that morning slammed into the Twin Towers. Bonita Mentis, at a Sunday memorial in New York reading the list of victims’ names, said she still had the shoes her sister was looking for before she left for work the morning she died.
“The day I was born, I became your sister. The day you died, you became my guardian angel,” Mentis said. “We love you, we miss you and we will never forget you.”
The ceremony at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum was one of many across the country in remembrance of the attacks that shook the world. President Biden laid a wreath at the Pentagon and First Lady Jill Biden spoke in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Events at the three sites where the strikes took place included a reading of the names of those who died.
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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.
President Joe Biden, speaking to a somber crowd in the rain outside the Pentagon, pledged to continue the fight against terrorism and called on Americans to stand up for democracy.
“America itself changed that day,” Biden said. “But what we will not change, and will never change, is the character of this nation that the terrorists thought they could hurt.”
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In Shanksville, the names of passengers and crew were read out 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.
“As we stand on this sacred and bruised ground, a testament to our collective grief and a monument to the memories that live on every day, this is the legacy we carry so much: hope that defies hate,” he said. said Jill Biden.
Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff attended the events in New York, but by tradition no political figures speak at the ground zero ceremony. The family members of the victims again reading the names of the deceased.
Six moments of silence were 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. crashed in Pennsylvania.
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.
Anthoula Katsimatides, 50, a museum administrator, lost her brother John Katsimatids, 31, in the attacks. She worries that, despite the “never forget” mantra, people are losing interest.
“The more time passes, the easier it is for people to forget or put it on the back burner,” she told The New York Times. The aim of the annual commemoration is to teach younger generations so they can avoid a similar tragedy, she said.
The attacks were the work of 19 al-Qaeda conspirators who hijacked two passenger planes departing from Boston, one from Newark, NJ, and one from outside Washington. They turned the planes into weapons, two of which slammed into and knocked down New York’s Twin Towers, one hit the Pentagon, and the other, likely aimed at the US Capitol, crashed into Shanksville Field.
The deadly morning sparked a “global war on terror” highlighted by two decades of fighting in Afghanistan and the 2011 murder of Osama bin Laden, founder of the Islamist militant group. A month ago, a US drone strike killed Ayman al-Zawahri, another key al-Qaeda figure who helped plan the September 11, 2001 attacks. And the self-proclaimed mastermind of the attacks, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, is in detention pending a long adjourned military tribunal.
“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