Americans marked the 12th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks with events around the nation on Wednesday. A tradition since the 2001 attacks, families and friends of the victims gathered at memorial sites to remember their lost loved ones. In schools, offices, and elsewhere, people paused to observe moments of silence to mark the anniversary. Thousands of volunteers also pledged to do good deeds for the occasion, which was designated a National Day of Service and Remembrance in 2009.
On September 11, 2001, nearly 3,000 people were killed when terrorists hijacked four airplanes. Two of the planes toppled the twin towers of the World Trade Center, in New York City. One jet destroyed a section of the Pentagon, near Washington, D.C. Another crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
A Day of Remembrance
In Washington, D.C., President Barack Obama walked out to the South Lawn of the White House at 8:46 a.m., the moment the first plane struck the south tower in New York. Then, he joined victims’ families at the Pentagon September 11 Memorial in Arlington, Virginia. A moment of silence at 9:37 a.m. marked the moment the plane hit the Pentagon. “Our hearts still ache for the futures snatched away, the lives that might have been,” Obama said.
A ceremony was also held at the National September 11 Memorial plaza in lower Manhattan, where two reflecting pools are set in the “footprints” of the World Trade Center towers. Bells tolled to mark the moments the planes hit the towers and when the two skyscrapers fell. Relatives and friends gathered to read the names of the victims and messages to their lost loved ones. Angilic Casalduc attended the ceremony to honor her mother, Vivian Casalduc. “As time passes and our family grows, our children remind us of you,” she said. “We miss you.”
At the ceremony, Bruni Sandolval carried a photo of her friend Nereida DeJesus, who was a victim of the attacks. “We grew up together on the Lower East Side, and I come every year with her family,” she said. “Coming here is peaceful in a way.”
This year’s New York City ceremony is the last one to be overseen by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He is in his final year as mayor after being elected to the office just weeks after the 2001 attacks. Bloomberg will continue in his role as chairman of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum Foundation. The memorial opened two years ago as a tribute to the victims. Bronze panels surrounding the reflecting pools show the names of those who died, including firefighters and other first responders. The museum is scheduled to open next year in lower Manhattan. It will focus on the impact of the attacks and share the experiences of survivors and first responders.
In Shanksville, Pennsylvania, bells were rung at 10:03 a.m. to mark the moment Flight 93 crashed in a field there. On Tuesday, officials had also gathered to break ground on the Flight 93 National Memorial, a visitor center that will tell the story of the passengers and crew workers who kept the hijacked plane from reaching its intended target at the nation’s capital.
During the Pentagon ceremony, President Obama also paid tribute to the four Americans who were killed one year ago in an attack on a U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya. He asked the country to pray for those who “serve in dangerous posts.”