Americans are commemorating 9/11 with mournful ceremonies, volunteering, appeals to “never forget” and increasing focus on the terror strikes’ extended toll on responders.
A bunch of victims’ relatives is expected at ground zero Wednesday, while President Donald Trump is scheduled to join an observance at the Pentagon. Vice President Mike Pence is to speak at the third attack site, near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Former President George W. Bush, the commander-in-chief in the time of this 2001 strikes, is expected in an afternoon wreath-laying in the Pentagon.
Eighteen years after the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil, the country is still grappling with the aftermath at ground zero, in Congress and outside. The attacks’ aftermath is observable from airport security checkpoints to Afghanistan. A rocket exploded in the U.S. embassy since the anniversary began in Afghanistan, where a post-9/11 invasion is now America’s longest war.
“People say, ‘Why do you stand here, year after year?'” Chundera Epps, a sister of Sept. 11 sufferer Christopher Epps, stated at last year’s ceremony at the World Trade Center. “Because soldiers are still dying for our freedom. First responders are still dying and being ill.”
“We can’t forget. Life won’t let us forget,” she added.
The anniversary ceremonies center on recalling the almost 3,000 people killed when hijacked planes rammed into the trade center, the Pentagon and a field near Shanksville on Sept. 11, 2001. All those victims’ names are read aloud in the ground zero service, where minutes of silence and tolling bells indicate the minutes when the aircraft crashed and the trade center’s twin towers fell.
However there was growing awareness in recent years of the suffering of another group of individuals tied to the catastrophe: firefighters, police and others who died or fell sick after exposure to the wreckage and the toxins unleashed inside.
While research continues into whether these disorders are connected to 9/11 radicals, a victims compensation fund for individuals with possibly Sept. 11-associated health issues has given more than $5.5 billion so far. More than 51,000 individuals have implemented.
After years of legislative gridlock, Earning cash in the fund and fervent activism by ailing first responders and their advocates, Congress this summer made sure that the fund will not run dry. Trump, a Republican and a New Yorker who had been in town on 9/11, signed the measure in July.
The ill gained new recognition this season in the memorial plaza at ground zero, where the new 9/11 Memorial Glade was dedicated this spring.
The tribute features six large stacks of granite inlaid with salvaged trade center steel, with a commitment “to those whose actions in our time of need led to their injury, sickness, and death.” No one is named specifically.
Some 9/11 memorials elsewhere already contained sickened rescue, recovery and cleanup workers, and there’s a remembrance wall completely focused on them in Nesconset, on Long Island. But those who fell ill or were injured, and their families, state using a tribute at ground zero carries special importance.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon announced Monday that its 9/11 memorial will close next week for electric and lighting work. The project, expected to take until late May, includes repairs to light glitches at the shallow reflecting pools beneath the memorial benches.
Sept. 11 is known not just as a day for remembrance and patriotism, but also as a day of service. People around the nation continue to volunteer at food banks, schools, home-building jobs, park cleanups and other charitable endeavors on and close to the anniversary.