NEW YORK — For the 20th time, America is pausing to read the names of and remember the nearly 3,000 people killed in the Sept. 11 attacks that stunned and forever changed the nation.
In New York City, at the Pentagon and outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania, ceremonies to remember the attacks that occurred there 20 years ago are being held Saturday, and President Joe Biden plans to visit each site.
“I think it’s appropriate that we remember, we remember the people that we lost, we remember the families,” said Barbara Lee, who was working at the Pentagon the day of the attack.
She was one of the survivors attending a private ceremony Saturday morning at the Pentagon.
“It’s just kind of sad day.”
At the 9/11 Memorial in New York City, a solemn crowd of hundreds gathered as a bell tolled and a moment of silence was held at 8:46 a.m., the moment the north tower of the World Trade Center was hit 20 years ago. Three more moments of silence were recognized throughout the course of the morning: for when the south tower was hit, and for when they both collapsed.
Lindsay Miller has been coming to the ceremonies in New York as long as she can remember to support her mother, Michele, who lost her brother in the attack.
Miller was 3 years old when her uncle, Mitchel Scott Wallace, a court officer, was killed in the World Trade Center as he tried to rescue trapped victims. As a school teacher, she said she now grapples with how students learn about the trauma of the day.
“I don’t know how you first learn about it,” she said. “It’s something you always knew.”
As the country moves another year further from the attacks,there’s a growing focus on educating a younger generation with no memory of that day.
“The nation faces a transformative moment with awareness of 9/11 transitioning from memory to history,” said Alice Greenwald, president and CEO of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.
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Meanwhile, the anniversary comes amid the United States’ chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, a war started in response to the attacks and one that has left many 9/11 families and survivors, veterans and Americans with mixed emotions.
USA TODAY Network reporters and photographers are covering the ceremonies in New York City, Shanksville and at the Pentagon. Refresh this page for the latest updates.
Bush calls for the same unity that came after 9/11
At a private ceremony for family of those killed after United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into a field outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania, former President George W. Bush spoke of the moment people across the U.S. learned of the attacks.
“The world was loud with carnage and sirens, then quiet with missing voices that would never be heard again,” he said.
Bush acknowledged that many alive today were not old enough to remember these moments, even though they now “owe a vast, unconscious debt” to the first responders and others who died in the attacks.
“For those too young to recall that clear September day, it is hard to describe the mix of feelings we experienced,” he said. “There was horror at the scale of destruction and awe at the bravery and kindness that rose to meet it. There was shock at the audacity of evil and gratitude for the heroism and decency that opposed it.”
“The actions of an enemy revealed the spirit of a people, and we were proud of our wounded nation,” he added.
A “ring of bells” takes place during a 9/11 commemoration at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania on September 11, 2021.
Amid an era of increased political polarization, Bush urged for the same unity that came after 9/11, saying “Whenever we need hope and inspiration, we can look to the skies and remember.”
Saturday’s ceremony at the Flight 93 National Memorial included a reading of the names of each person who died, followed by the tolls of the Bells of Remembrance.
Vice President Kamala Harris spoke of the hard times the families of those on Flight 93 have faced, and how they must remember their faces on every birthday and every time they tuck in their kids.
“You have felt it every day, every week and every year that has passed, these 20 years,” she said. “Please know your nation sees with you, and we stand with you.”
Hundreds gather for reading of names at 9/11 Memorial in NYC
A solemn crowd of hundreds of first responders, families of victims and politicians lined the 9/11 Memorial in New York City to mark the 20th anniversary. Families held photos of loved ones who died in the attack as flowers and flags were placed near their names on the Memorial.
Among the attendees were former police detective Madeline Lawrence, 60. She said she wasn’t surprised when she heard her coworker Sgt. Rodney C. Gillis ran into the south tower on Sept. 11.
“That was what Rodney would do,” she said of Gillis, who died in the attack. Lawrence said Gillis was goal oriented. He wanted to help others. He drove to the World Trade Center from where he was stationed in Brooklyn and ran in on his own.
“He was our sergeant, and he looked out for us,” she said. “He appreciated the magnitude of those buildings.”
Gillis’ brother, Ronald, called his brother a “character.” He could be funny and he could be serious. But the hardest part for Ronald in losing his brother is that his brother’s three children don’t have their father. The past 20 years have been a challenge but Ronald Gillis, 56, said he comes to the ceremony to remember his brother.
“It’s 20 years without my brother. It’s 20 years rehashing this,” he said.
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Roxanne Nedd, 57, lost her husband, who worked at the Windows of the World restaurant in the World Trade Center. She had to raise their two children without her husband and said they had countless plans for life together. Now, she tries to live the life they once talked about.
“I miss him,” she said. But, “you just have to move forward with your life. … We have to live our best lives we can.”
In the video below, the names of the nearly 3,000 people who died in the attacks are being remembered.
For Gen Z, Sept. 11 is history:Here’s how they’ve come to understand the attacks.
Bruce Springsteen plays song as bell tolls
As the bell tolled recognizing the fall of the second tower at New York City’s 9/11 Memorial, Bruce Springsteen performed to an emotional crowd, with may people starting to cry as he sang.
“When all the summers have come to an end. I’ll see you in my dreams,” he sang. “We’ll meet and live and love again. I’ll see you in my dreams.”