The United States is expected to mark the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on Saturday with commemorations at the three attack sites – New York’s World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
The milestone anniversary comes just weeks after the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the return to power of the Taliban, the faction that housed the terrorist group founded by Osama bin Laden that carried out the attacks.
It also comes amid continued concern over the COVID-19 pandemic, which has now killed more than 11 times as many people in New York City as the nearly 3,000 who perished in the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center.
In a video posted Friday evening, President Joe Biden mourned the ongoing losses of September 11.
“Children grew up without parents and parents suffered without children,” said Biden, a childhood friend of the father of a 9/11 victim, Davis Grier Sezna Jr.
But the president also highlighted what he called the “central lesson” of September 11: “that among our most vulnerable (…) unity is our greatest strength”.
Biden is due to visit the three sites of the 2001 attacks.
Former President George W. Bush, leader of the country on September 11, is expected at the Pennsylvania Memorial and his successor, Barack Obama, at Ground Zero. The only other post-September 11 US president, Donald Trump, plans to be in New York, in addition to commenting on a boxing match in Florida that evening.
More celebrations – from a wreath laying in Portland, Maine, to a firefighter parade in Guam – are planned in a country now filled with 9/11 memorial plaques, statues and gardens.
Using hijacked planes as missiles, the attackers inflicted the deadliest terrorist attacks on American soil, killing nearly 3,000, toppling the Twin Towers and ushering in an era of fear.
Security has been redefined, with changes to airport checkpoints, policing practices and government oversight powers. In the years that followed, virtually every major explosion, accident or act of violence seemed to raise a crucial question: “Is this terrorism?” Ideological violence and plots have followed, although federal officials and the public have recently become increasingly concerned about threats from domestic extremists after years of focusing on international terrorist groups in the aftermath of September 11.
From the start, New York City faced questions about whether it could ever recover from the blow to its financial hub and restore a sense of security among the crowds and skyscrapers. New Yorkers eventually rebuilt a more populous and prosperous city, but had to contend with the tactics of a powerful police department after 9/11 and a growing gap between the haves and have-nots.
A “war on terror” led to invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, where America’s longest war ended last month with a massive and rushed airlift punctuated by a suicide bombing which killed 169 Afghans and 13 US servicemen and was assigned to a branch of the Islamic State extremist group. The United States now fears that Al-Qaida, the terrorist network behind 9/11, could regroup in Afghanistan.