With tributes and tears, Americans remember 9/11

A plane approaches the World Trade Center moments striking the South Tower on Sept. 11, 2001. (William Kratzke/AP)

At ground zero and across the country Americans looked back Monday on 9/11 with moments of silence, tearful words and appeals to teach younger generations about the terror attacks 22 years before.

“For those of us who lost people on that day, that day is still happening. Everybody else moves on. And you find a way to go forward, but that day is always happening for you,” Edward Edelman said as he arrived at New York’s World Trade Center to honor his slain brother-in-law, Daniel McGinley.

President Joe Biden was due at a ceremony on a military base in Anchorage, Alaska. His visit, en route to Washington from a trip to India and Vietnam, is a reminder that the impact of 9/11 was felt in every corner of the nation, however remote. Nearly 3,000 people were killed when hijacked planes crashed into the trade center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field, in an attack that reshaped American foreign policy and domestic fears.

On that day, “we were one country, one nation, one people, just like it should be. That was the feeling — that everyone came together and did what we could, where we were at, to try to help,” Eddie Ferguson, the fire-rescue chief in Virginia’s Goochland County, said in an interview before the anniversary.

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The predominantly rural county of 25,000 people, more than 100 miles from the Pentagon, has a Sept. 11 memorial and holds two anniversary commemorations, one focused on first responders and another honoring all the victims.

At ground zero, Vice President Kamala Harris joined other dignitaries at the ceremony on the National Sept. 11 Memorial plaza. Instead of remarks from political figures, the event features victims reading the names of the dead and delivering brief personal messages.

Some included patriotic declarations about American values and thanked first responders and the military. One lauded the Navy SEALs who killed al-Qaida leader and 9/11 plotter Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011. Another appealed for peace and justice. One acknowledged the many lives lost in the post-9/11 “War on Terror.” And many shared reflections on missing loved ones.

“Though we never met, I am honored to carry your name and legacy with me,” said Manuel João DaMota Jr., who was born after his father and namesake died.

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Jason Inoa, 20, found it nerve-wracking to tell the crowd about his grandfather, Jorge Velazquez. But Inoa did it for his grandmother, who has Alzheimer’s disease.

“The one thing she does remember is her husband,” he said afterward.

The National Park Service-run memorial site is offering a new educational video, virtual tour and other materials for classroom use. Educators with a total of more than 10,000 students have registered for access, organizers say.

Many Americans did volunteer work on what Congress has designated both Patriot Day and a National Day of Service and Remembrance. Others gathered for anniversary events at memorials, firehouses, city halls, campuses and elsewhere.