This Saturday, the United States remembered a historic date: the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
The cloudless blue sky of New York was reminiscent of the beautiful day 20 years ago. The flag carried by the police was also the same one raised at Ground Zero in 2001. Three American presidents, side by side, in silence, to remember the anniversary of the biggest terrorist attack the country has ever experienced.
Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and current President Joe Biden together in a show of unity. With each plane that passed in the sky, Biden followed it with his eyes. At 8:46 am, the chimes recalled the impact of the first plane against the North Tower.
Thousands of people gathered at Ground Zero in New York to remember and honor the nearly 3,000 victims of the attacks.
One by one, the names of the nearly 3,000 people who died that day were read by relatives. Children and teenagers also participated. “To my father and my grandfather, even though I haven’t been able to meet you, I know you look out for me from the sky,” says a family member. “My aunts, from the photos and the stories I hear, I know you were beautiful,” says another.
At 9:03 am in New York, another minute of silence to remember the second plane that hit the South Tower of the World Trade Center.
It had emotional music and stories. “I lost my father and I miss him every day,” says a family member.
Other tributes took place in various parts of the city. Trinity Church, for example, which served as a base for several months of searches of Ground Zero, distributed thousands of little white ribbons that say remembrance and healing, and people tied the ribbons to the grid in memory of the victims.
Amanda went to tour California with her family and said that it’s impossible not to relive that day, and go back to being heartbroken over so many losses.
Former President Donald Trump did not attend the ceremonies but paid a surprise visit to New York police and firefighters. Smiling, Trump took pictures with them and used the day of mourning to criticize the current president for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, despite the peace agreement with the Taliban being signed by his government last year.
Meanwhile, Joe Biden paid other tributes to the victims of the attacks in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the fourth plane crashed. Also in Pennsylvania, Vice President Kamala Harris and former President George W. Bush spoke. The two spoke of the importance of unity despite the current deep division in the United States. The vice president recalled that in the days following the attacks, America was reminded that unity is possible.
Bush was the American president when the bombings took place. In his emotional speech on Saturday, the Republican said that it was on that day that he learned that Americans can be vulnerable but never fragile. And that every hour spent with the people we love is a sacred gift.
The former president also recalled that he felt proud to lead such a resilient and united people. And speaking of unity, those days seem far removed from today, when every divergence seems to turn into a fight and every fight a war.
“I have no explanations or solutions. I can only speak from what I saw: on the day of trial and mourning, I saw thousands of people join hands with neighbors and run for the causes of others. This is the America I recognize,” he said Bush.
Bush also mentioned American domestic terrorism. He said that culturally, the two extremist groups, foreign and national, are very different, but that deep down, both disdain diversity, defy national symbols and are children of the same empty spirit, and above all, they must be continually confronted.
Before the day was out, President Joe Biden went to the Pentagon memorial to the dead to lay a wreath of flowers. He, First Lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband all held a minute of silence in honor of the 184 victims of the attack on the US Department of Defense headquarters.
As night fell in New York, 88 7,000-watt bulbs recreated the Twin Towers. A tribute that will last all night, from the ground to the sky.
Chronology of attacks and geopolitical consequences
A morning with blue skies on a Tuesday. At 8:46 am, a Boeing 767 dove into the North Tower. All exits from the 91st floor upwards have been destroyed. That day, Globo’s journalism duty vignette interrupted the program to report the historic event.
More than 16,000 people occupied the two World Trade Center towers at that time. One hundred and ten floors of offices with people from over 90 countries, including Brazil.
Shortly after 9 am it became clear to the world that this was a gigantic terrorist attack. Another hijacked jet exploded in the South Tower at the height of the 80th floor. Only one emergency stairway remained.
The al-Qaeda terrorist network hijacked two other planes: one destroyed part of the Pentagon, the Defense Department’s headquarters in Washington. The other crashed in a field in Pennsylvania after passengers tried to subdue the hijackers.
The South Tower, the second to be hit, collapsed first. Twenty-nine minutes later the North Tower came down, killing most of the victims of that 9/11.
Three hundred and forty-three firefighters who saved thousands of lives died in the fall of the towers. Amidst the pulverized towers, search teams found more than 22,000 remains. But of more than a thousand victims, 40% of the total, nothing was found.
Ground zero where there is now a memorial has become a holy place. Twenty years later a memorial remembers the victims of the September 11 attacks. There are two sources and around them are engraved the names of the nearly 3,000 dead.
The following week, then-President George W. Bush launched the so-called ‘war on terror’ to eliminate al-Qaeda and its terrorist boss Osama bin Laden.
The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan where al-Qaeda bases were located, under the protection of the Taliban government.
The ‘war on terror’ did not stop there. In 2003, the United States and an international coalition invaded Iraq and toppled dictator Saddam Hussein in search of weapons of mass destruction, which were never found.
Osama Bin Laden was killed by an elite US commando in Pakistan in 2011. Bin Laden was Saudi, as were 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers.
Americans lost more than 7,000 soldiers in both wars. Hundreds of thousands of Afghan and Iraqi civilians died.
With the departure of Afghanistan last month, President Joe Biden put an end to the post-9/11 period and announced that the priority now is to face China and Russia.
But terrorists from various factions now occupy territories in seven countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and Lebanon. The occupation wars are over, but the Americans maintain counterterrorism operations in dozens of countries. The war on terror has entered a new phase.
American political scientist Ian Bremmer sees a future of more challenges: “The United States is still the world’s greatest power and also the most politically divided and paralyzed advanced democracy, less willing to police the world, less interested in leading human rights, less willing to defend multilateral institutions, the rule of law and open societies. And if the United States abandons that role, no one will take the place. Neither China nor anyone else, which means more power vacuums, more uncertainty and more instability in the world”.