As America commemorates the 20th anniversary of 9/11 on Saturday, solemn ceremonies were given with added poignancy by the recent turbulent departure of troops from Afghanistan and return to power of the Taliban.
Heart-touching memorials will take place at each of the three sites where 19 Al-Qaeda hijackers — mostly from Saudi Arabia — crashed packed airliners, striking the cultural, financial and political hearts of the United States.
The comes with US troops eventually departed from Afghanistan, but national discord — and for President Joe Biden, political peril — are overshadowing any sense of closure.
In a video broadcasted on the eve of the anniversary, Biden encouraged Americans to show unity, “our greatest strength.”
“To me, that’s the central lesson of September 11th. It’s that at our most vulnerable, in the push and pull of all that makes us human, in the battle for the soul of America, unity is our greatest strength,” Biden said in a six- minute message from the White House.
At New York’s Ground Zero, where two pools of water now stand where the Twin Towers used to, relatives will read out the names of the almost 3,000 people killed, in a four-hour-long service starting at 8:30 am (1230 GMT).
Six moments of silence will be observed, harmonizing with the times the two World Trade Center towers were blown, and fell, and the moments the Pentagon was attacked and Flight 93 crashed.
Monica Iken-Murphy, who lost her 37-year-old husband Michael Iken in the World Trade Center, says this will be a “heightened” anniversary for many Americans.
However, for her, as for many other survivors, the trauma has never changed.
“I feel like it just happened,” she told AFP.
A whole generation has emerged since the morning of September 11, 2001.