20 Years – How the US Nation Remembers September 11th

The commemoration of the terrorist attacks of September 11th 20 years ago is marked this year by the withdrawal of troops in Afghanistan. On this day, a war-weary society looks at its heroes, who were the first to show up at the time.

from Konrad Aegean

Friday, 09/10/2021, 5:20 a.m.|last updated: Thursday, 09.09.2021, 3:50 p.m.

Reading time: 4 minutes |

2021 is a special year of remembrance. The war in Afghanistan, with which the assassins of September 11, 2001 should be punished, has come to an end in chaos after almost 20 years. As in previous years, the USA will perform the national remembrance ritual on September 11th in New York.


On this autumn day in New York City, two hijacked Boeing passenger planes sped into the World Trade Center within 18 minutes. People jumped out of the windows of the twin towers, which are more than 400 meters high. The World Trade Center collapsed.

Not far from the capital Washington, a plane crashed into the Department of Defense. A fourth machine crashed in the state of Pennsylvania near the village of Shanksville. Almost 3,000 people died in the attacks.

From Aamoth to Zukelman

When commemorating in Manhattan, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania, the politicians hold back, out of respect for the families. There are fewer corona restrictions this year than there are in 2020. At the outdoor event in Manhattan, fully vaccinated people do not need to wear a mask.

Ten years ago, a memorial and museum were opened on the former site of the World Trade Center. The ceremony to commemorate the victims takes place there every year. It takes about three hours for bereaved relatives to read out the victims’ names – from Gordon Aamoth to Igor Zukelman.

Background: On September 11, 2001, terrorists piloted four hijacked passenger planes in symbols of US power. The act was quickly attributed to al-Qaeda, which was under the protection of the Taliban. US President George W. Bush promised retaliation. Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (SPD) assured “unlimited solidarity”. On September 20, 2001, Bush declared war on terror. The US attack on Afghanistan began on October 7, 2001. On May 2, 2011, US special forces killed Osama Bin Laden, who was allegedly responsible for the 9/11 attack. Tens of thousands of civilians and Afghan soldiers, as well as several thousand US and allied soldiers, were killed in the war in Afghanistan. US forces left Afghanistan in August 2021. The Taliban returned to power on August 15. More than 85 people died in a terrorist attack at the airport on August 26th.

Memorial a cemetery

The ceremony will focus on victims and bereaved, stressed 9/11 Memorial President Alice Greenwald. Forty percent of the bereaved families would not have received any remains. For these people, the memorial is also a cemetery.

According to historian John Bodnar, the national memorial replaced the many small pensive and grieving monuments that people in New York erected immediately after the attacks. The history professor emeritus from Indiana University in Bloomington is the author of “Divided by Terror: American Patriotism after 9/11”.

Criticism in the background

At numerous events across the country, firefighters and police officers honor colleagues killed in the attacks on the anniversary. Fire brigades organize the so-called “fire brigade stair climbing”, during which participants climb the stairs of high-rise buildings in full gear in remembrance of the work in the World Trade Center. A former flight attendant pushes a drinks cart from Boston to New York in honor of his colleagues.

The official reminder emphasizes the heroic deeds of the rescue workers on September 11, 2001. This emphasis suppresses the critical analysis of the background to the attacks and the reaction of the US government with the declaration of war, says historian Bodnar. The then President George W. Bush declared war on Afghanistan immediately after the attacks.

War approval waned

Bush added “a dose of patriotic certainty” to the diverse emotions of the people at the time, Bodnar said. In 2002, Bush decreed that September 11th would henceforth be called “Patriot Day” in memory of the heroic victims of the first responders.

The initial approval of the war in Afghanistan among the US population has fallen sharply. US President Joe Biden wanted to bring the armed forces home before September 11th. But the price for ending the mission is high: The Taliban have taken power again in Afghanistan. In an attack during the ongoing evacuation mission, 13 US soldiers and numerous Afghans died at Kabul Airport.

Generation without memory

The Americans are not firmly united on the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. What eyewitnesses and contemporaries burned into their memories is rather an old story for some young people. An entire generation has no memory of this groundbreaking event, said memorial director Alice Greenwald in a television interview.

There has not been a terrorist attack of this scale on US territory in 20 years. But the threat of terrorism remains real, emphasize security authorities. The US Homeland Security Warns of an increased risk of violence by foreign terror groups around the anniversary. (epd / me)

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