‘THERE’S NEVER CLOSURE’
In a somber late-summer ritual, citizens come together to mourn those lost and remember the day America was attacked
Once more, families gathered at ground zero, where nearly 3,000 people died on that bright September morning. Once more, there was an outpouring of grief. Once more, there was the sound of a bell tolling in mourning. And there was the rhythm of names being recited.
Eighteen years have passed since terrorists commandeered airplanes and the twin towers of the World Trade Center were brought down.
The commemoration at ground zero — by now an annual rite of remembrance that follows a familiar, somber script — began with an honor guard carrying the flag.
At 8:46 a.m. Wednesday, the time when the first plane slammed into the north tower, there was a moment of silence, the first of six marking the strikes at the trade center and the Pentagon, and the plane crash in Shanksville,
Pennsylvania, as well as the collapse of the twin towers in a blizzard of toxic dust and flaming debris. Bagpipers played “America the Beautiful.”
President Donald Trump and the first lady, Melania Trump, led a moment of silence at the White House before going to the Pentagon, where 64 people aboard a hijacked American Airlines jet were killed, along with 125 people in the building. The president said that any terrorist who comes to the United States would be met with a force “the likes of which the United States has never used before.”
Trump delivered his remarks at the Pentagon days after canceling peace talks with the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan in 2001 and provided a haven for alqaida, the terrorist group that hijacked the planes in the attacks. In Shanksville, Vice President Mike Pence spoke at an observance celebrating the heroism of the passengers aboard the plane who took on the hijackers and sacrificed their lives.
At ground zero, readers began reciting the names of the dead, one by one. Some family members brushed away tears as the names were read. Some carried flowers or wore T-shirts with names. Some held placards above the crowd with images of their loved ones.
Margie Miller, whose husband, Joel, died, said she always goes to the place at the memorial where his name is engraved. She touches it tenderly. He was 55 when he died. He was an assistant vice president at Marsh and Mclennan, the management consulting firm. His office was on the 97th floor.
“This is his place, and it’s my place,” Miller said. “It’s where I feel him. He breathed here and he died here.”
La-shawn Clark said this anniversary was a particularly difficult one because her husband — Benjamin Keefe Clark, an executive with Fiduciary Trust International who was 39 and whose office was on the 93rd floor of the south tower — cannot share a milestone, the birth of their first granddaughter, due next month.
She said that for weeks after the attacks, as the rescue and recovery teams did their work, she would call her husband’s cellphone just to hear his voice on the voicemail message. She knew she would not get an answer, she said, wiping away tears.
She said that the memorial was where she sensed his presence the most. “There’s never closure,” she said, “but when I come here, when the wind blows, it’s like he’s kissing me.”
In the years since the attacks, those who were children in 2001, like Ashley Nelson, have grown up and found their places in the world — a world that has struggled to adapt to terror attacks. Nelson was 6 years old in 2001. On Wednesday she paid tribute as she stood silently, her arms crossed, near the ceremony.
“It helps me put things into perspective,” she said, even though she did not know anyone who was killed in the attacks. “The importance of remembering the people that lost their lives and who sacrificed, that’s important to me.”
A woman places flowers during a ceremony at the 9/11 Memorial in lower Manhattan on Thursday, the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.