America reflects, and mourns, on 20th anniversary of Sept. 11 attacks

A single white flower is left on one of the panels containing the names of the victims of the attacks on the first day that the 9/11 Memorial was opened to the public at the World Trade Center site in New York, September 12, 2011. The area is opening to the public the day after the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.REUTERS/Mike Segar

As the United States honors the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks that shattered and changed American life, commemorations and memorials are scheduled nationwide Saturday to remember the victims and first responders.

In New York, the ceremony at Ground Zero began with the first moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. – the time Flight 11 struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center. It will be followed by the annual reading of all the victims who died in New York. President Biden and first lady Jill Biden will be in New York before moving on to services in Shanksville, Pa., and finally Arlington Va.

Ground Zero is closed to the general public Saturday morning, but family members of those who died 20 years ago are in attendance along with the Bidens and other dignitaries; former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton are among those in attendance.

Television footage shows people laying flowers along the memorial walls that contain the names of those killed in the attacks.

The site covers the footprint of the twin towers. The 9/11 Memorial and Museum has an annual tradition in which the names of the 3,977 killed in the terrorist attacks are read aloud. Also included are names of the six victims of the Feb. 26, 1993 bombing at the World Trade Center, also a terrorist attack.

Events across America will mark the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.

Biden and first lady Jill Biden are scheduled to travel to three locations, starting with New York City, then moving on to Shanksville, Pa., and finally Arlington, Va.

At 12:30 p.m. the president and first lady will attend a wreath-laying ceremony at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville. They will later attend, shortly before 5 p.m., a ceremony at the Pentagon in Arlington.

There are many other events planned. For example, at 1:30 p.m., firefighters in New York City, who lost 343 colleagues on 9/11, are scheduled to hold a memorial service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

But it’s also a Saturday, with a full schedule of college football and a big tennis match in Queens.

A high pressure system along the East Coast has brought the kind of sparkling weather that people remember from that awful day 20 years ago. “Mostly sunny” is the early-morning forecast in New York City and the nation’s capital, and by later in the morning the “Mostly’ will be dropped.

In the U.K., Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Boris Johnson led tributes to the 9/11 victims, which included 67 Britons. In a message posted on social media, the queen said that her prayers remained with the victims and survivors as she paid tribute to communities that rebuilt after the tragedy. She also recalled her 2010 visit to the World Trade Center site where she laid a wreath in memory of the victims.

“As we mark the 20th anniversary of the terrible attacks on September 11 2001, my thoughts and prayers, and those of my family and the entire nation, remain with the victims, survivors and families affected, as well as the first responders and rescue workers called to duty,” the queen said in a statement posted to Twitter. “My visit to the site of the World Trade Centre in 2010 is held fast in my memory. It reminds me that as we honour those from many nations, faiths and backgrounds who lost their lives, we also pay tribute to the resilience and determination of the communities who joined together to rebuild.”

Johnson said that while the threat of terrorism remained, “we can now say with the perspective of 20 years that they failed to shake our belief in freedom and democracy; they failed to drive our nations apart, or cause us to abandon our values, or to live in permanent fear.”

There are a number of events planned in the U.K. to mark the anniversary, including a private service in central London organized by the September 11 UK Families Support Group. During that service, family members will read the names of victims and lay white roses on an inscription stone. In the evening, 67 candles will be lit, one for each of the British victims.

On Friday, Biden released a lengthy video message to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, calling for unity in a divided country and acknowledging that the pain and grief from that day may not have dulled for some families, even after two decades.

Standing in the White House in a dark suit, with a blurred out American flag visible over his shoulder, Biden spoke somberly and expressed condolences from himself and first lady Jill Biden to the loved ones of the nearly 3,000 people killed after terrorist-hijacked planes crashed that day into the World Trade Center in New York; into the Pentagon in Arlington; and into a field in Shanksville, Pa.

“To the families of the 2,977 people, from more than 90 nations, killed on Sept. 11, 2001, . . . and 1,000 more who were injured, America and the world commemorate you and your loved ones, the pieces of your soul,” Biden said.

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