Fourteen years ago today the world watched as the United States faced unspeakable terror.
It was September 11, 2001 when nearly 3, 000 people lost their lives as a result of a tragic terrorist attack. Four airplanes (United Airlines Flight 175, American Airlines Flight 11, United Airlines Flight 93 and American Airlines Flight 77) were hijacked by terrorists on a suicide mission. Three of the planes successfully hit their targets. Two planes hit the Twin Towers, one plane hit the Pentagon and the fourth plane, it is believed, was thwarted from its final destination by the brave pilots and crew on board. That final plane crash landed in an empty field in Pennsylvania.
Ceremonies today honor the victims and their families. They honor the soldiers and their families. They honor the firefighters and police. They honor all first responders and heroes who were born that day. It is time for people to remember the fear, pain and courage and also give reverence to the hope that rose up from the ashes fourteen years ago.
The World Trade Center hosted a ceremony today. Those in attendance took part in two moments of silence. Both at the exact times that the planes hit each tower. Once at 8:46am and then again at 9:03am. Bagpipes and drums were played and the names of all those lost were read aloud.
James Canham is a retired New York firefighter that speaks at the ceremonies on 9/11. The emotion he felt fourteen years ago spills into his speech year after year. He told the crowd:
“I come down here every year and I do everything I can not to choke up.”
Pennsylvania also hosted a ceremony today. Their moment of silence was held at 10:03am which was the exact moment that United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. There were forty people on the plane including passengers, pilots and crew. There were no survivors.
In Washington, a flag was set out which covered the side of the Pentagon. It was at 9:30am that American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the side of the building and killed 184 people. At that exact same time today, the memorial ceremony began. Wreaths were presented and Ash Carter, Secretary of Defense, gave some solemn words.
This morning, another moment of silence was observed at The White House. Barack and Michelle Obama were seen on the South Lawn at 8:46am paying their respects at the exact moment the first plane hit the World Trade Center fourteen years ago.
Barack then packed his bags and headed to Fort Meade in Maryland to speak face to face with some American troops. Peter Cook, Pentagon spokesman, reported:
“The President very much values face time with troops — listening, asking and answering questions, and he looks forward to taking time on the anniversary of 9/11 to engage directly with service members.”
In a symbolic gesture, a pear tree was planted outside the Justice Department headquarters this morning. The seed came from a tree that remained standing outside the World Trade Center Plaza after 9/11. The original tree now lives at the National September 11 Memorial in New York. As the tree was planted, Attorney General Loretta Lynch told crowds that the tree reminds us all:
“We can endure, we can prevail, and we, too, can bloom again.”
Penny Can Vlerah, 68, and her husband James, 83, are from West Unity, Ohio. They traveled to New York this year to pay their respects at the ceremony. She told reporters:
“It’s my first time in New York on September 11 and it’s very emotional, very moving, even though I’m not personally connected to the tragedy, except by being American.”
September 11, 2001 was a heartbreaking day for people all over the globe. We all shared the grief, the heartache and the fear but we also felt the solidarity, the bravery and the courage.
It was a day we will #NeverForget.