On the 20th anniversary of 9/11, America honors the memory of those who were lost: ‘We remember’ – USA TODAY

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.

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, Harris speak at Shanksville ceremony: ‘We stand with you’

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 about the fear in the days after the attack as well as the courage. 

“Today, we remember your loss, share your sorrow, and we honor the men and women that you have loved so long and so well,” Bush said. 

Bush, who was in office during the attacks, also praised the response of Americans in the days that followed. “We learned that bravery is more common than we imagined.”

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.”

— Staff, The Daily American

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.

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.”

The song, “I’ll See You in My Dreams,” is from his 2020 album, “Letter to You.” Springsteen previously released “The Rising” in 2002 that articulated the nation’s fear, anger and sorrow following the 9/11 attacks.

The imagery of “rising” has multiple interpretations, including a rising to heaven and the firefighters rising up up the stairwells of the World Trade Center on 9/11.

“One of the most powerful images of the 11th, that I’d read in the paper, some of the people coming down were talking about the emergency workers who were ascending,” Springsteen said on “Nightline” at the time of the album’s release in June 2002. “The idea of those guys going up the stairs, up the stairs, ascending, ascending. I mean you could be ascending a smoky staircase, you could be in the afterlife, moving on.”

Family members honor memory of fallen loved ones at private Pentagon ceremony

Outside the Pentagon early Saturday, guests walked through an aisle lined with flags, trickling into rows of white chairs near where two fire trucks from the Arlington County Fire Department displayed a large American flag.

Near the front, Richard Keller and his wife honor the memory of his son, Chandler Keller. Keller, 29 at the time of the attacks, died onboard the hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 departing Dulles to Los Angeles. 

“We lost him on that day, and we’ve been back almost every year to remember him,” Richard Keller said. “We’ve had the blessing of a wonderful family and friends that have kept us whole throughout all this.”

“We just can’t believe it’s been 20 years,” he added. “We’re tried hard to keep his memory alive.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin began his remarks by acknowledging the pain those in attendance bear “in ordinary moments of absence, in quiet minutes that can seem to stretch off for hours.” Austin said, 20 years after the attacks, nearly a quarter of U.S. citizens today were born after 9/11.

“As the years march on, we must ensure that all our fellow Americans know and understand what happened here on 9/11 … and in Manhattan … and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania,” he said.

Byron Alexander, retired Deputy Chief of the Alexandra Fire Department and a first responder during the attack, also said it is important to speak about the attacks to those who weren’t old enough to remember them.

“Many of our recruits were either babies or weren’t even born when 9/11 occurred, so they don’t really understand,” he said. “So it’s important for us to continue to help them understand the significance in what happened that day.”

— Sarah Elbeshbishi, USA TODAY

How former presidents will be commemorating the anniversary 

In New York City, former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, as well as former first ladies Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama, joined the Bidens in the ceremony at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.

Biden, Obama and Clinton each wore blue ribbons and held their hands over their hearts as a procession marched a flag through the memorial.

Biden released a video address Friday, speaking on the “heroism everywhere — in places expected and unexpected” following 9/11.

“To me that’s the central lesson of September 11,” he said. “Unity is our greatest strength.”

When Biden arrived in New York on Friday, twin beams of light reached four miles into the sky for the “Tribute in Light,” a haunting reminder of where the towers once stood.

Obama on Saturday paid tribute in a statement to the nearly 3,000 people who died on 9/11 and the “heroes who run towards danger in order to do what is right.”

“Let’s never forget that day, and let’s never take them for granted,” he added.

In Shanksville, former President George W. Bush, who was commander in chief during the attacks, is delivering keynote remarks Saturday morning at the Flight 93 National Memorial. He’ll then head to Dallas with his wife, Laura, for a screening of the documentary “9/11: Inside the President’s War Room” at the George W. Bush Presidential Center.

Staff for former President Donald Trump didn’t respond to a request for comment, however Trump is slated to provide commentary Saturday night during a boxing match between in Florida.

Trump released a video statement Saturday, praising the bravery of first responders and criticizing Biden’s 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.

“For the great people of our country, this is a very sad day,” Trump said. “Sept. 11 represents great sorrow for our country.”

America’s oldest living former president will mark the anniversary in private. Former President Jimmy Carter, 96, is not scheduled to appear publicly on Saturday.

Follow Breaking News Reporter Ryan Miller on Twitter @RyanW_Miller. Contact News Now Reporter Christine Fernando at cfernando@usatoday.com or follow her on Twitter at @christinetfern.

Read more on the Sept. 11 attacks:

By the numbers: Facts from a tragic day in American history

Did 9/11 permanently change life in the US? More Americans say so than ever before

The photo of a grieving 9/11 son was unforgettable. 20 years on, he recalls his mom’s sacrifice.

9/11 hijackers were ‘hiding in plain sight’ before the 2001 attacks. How did they do it?

Contributing: Chris Jordan, Asbury Park Press; Rick Rouan, USA TODAY; The Associated Press