America Commemorates 18th Anniversary of 9/11 Attacks

9/11 anniversary
A flag hangs from a steel girder damaged in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, at a memorial in Jersey City, N.J., early Wednesday morning, with One World Trade Center visible across the Hudson River. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)

People who were too young on 9/11 to even remember their lost loved ones, and others for whom the grief is still raw, paid tribute with wreath-layings and the solemn roll call of the dead Wednesday as America marked the 18th anniversary of the worst terror attack on U.S. soil.

“Eighteen years. We will not forget. We cannot forget,” Bud Salter, who lost his sister, Catherine, said at ground zero.

President Donald Trump laid a wreath at the Pentagon, telling victims’ relatives, “This is your anniversary of personal and permanent loss.”

“It’s the day that has replayed in your memory a thousand times over,” the president said. “The last phone call. The last time hearing those precious words, ‘I love you.'”

Near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the third site where planes crashed on Sept. 11, 2001, Vice President Mike Pence credited the crew and passengers who fought back against the hijackers with protecting him and others in the U.S. Capitol that day.

“I will always believe that I and many others in our nation’s capital were able to go home that day and hug our families because of the courage and selflessness of your families,” said Pence, who was an Indiana congressman at the time. Officials concluded that the attackers had been aiming the plane toward Washington.

Nearly 3,000 people were killed when terrorist-piloted planes slammed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the field in Pennsylvania.

After reading part of the long list of names, Parboti Parbhu choked up as she spoke from the ground zero podium about her slain sister, Hardai. Even after nearly two decades, “There’s no easy way to say goodbye,” she said.

By now, the heritage of grief has been handed down to a new generation, including children and young adults who knew their lost relatives barely or not at all.

Jacob Campbell was 10 months old when his mother, Jill Maurer-Campbell, died on 9/11.

“It’s interesting growing up in a generation that doesn’t really remember it. I feel a connection that no one I go to school with can really understand,” Campbell, a University of Michigan sophomore, said as he attended the ceremony.

Like the families, the nation is still grappling with the aftermath of Sept. 11. The effects are visible from airport security checkpoints to Afghanistan, where the post-9/11 U.S. invasion has become America’s longest war. The aim was to dislodge Afghanistan’s then-ruling Taliban for harboring al-Qaida leader and Sept. 11 mastermind Osama bin Laden.

Al-Qaida’s current leader used the anniversary to call for more attacks on the U.S. and other targets.

At ground zero, Nicholas Haros Jr., who lost his mother, Frances, reminded the audience of the al-Qaida attackers and tore into Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota over her recent “Some people did something” reference to 9/11.

“Our constitutional freedoms were attacked, and our nation’s founding on Judeo-Christian values was attacked. That’s what ‘some people’ did. Got that now?” he said to applause.

Omar, one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress, has said she didn’t intend to minimize what happened on Sept. 11, and accused critics of taking her words out of context. She tweeted Wednesday that “September 11th was an attack on all of us.”

The dead included Muslims, as Zaheda Rahman underscored after reading names at ground zero. She called her uncle, Abul Chowdhury, a “proud Muslim-American man who lived his life with a carefree nature, a zeal for adventure and a tenacity which I emulate every single day.”

Others made a point of spotlighting the suffering of firefighters, police and others who died or fell ill after being exposed to the smoke and dust at ground zero.

A compensation fund for people with potentially Sept. 11-related health problems has paid out more than $5.5 billion so far. More than 51,000 people have applied. Over the summer, Congress made sure the fund won’t run dry. The sick also gained new recognition this year at the World Trade Center site, where a memorial glade was dedicated this spring.

Sept. 11 has become known also as a day of service. People around the country volunteer at food banks, schools, home-building projects, park cleanups and other community events around the anniversary.

9/11 anniversary
The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center burning on September 11, 2001. (AP Photo/Diane Bondareff)
9/11 anniversary
U.S. President Donald Trump attends a memorial ceremony at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, Wednesday. (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)
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At a ceremony Wednesday in front of a firehouse adjacent to the World Trade Center. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
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Louis Gonzalez makes a rubbing of his sister’s name at the National September 11 Memorial, Wednesday. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
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Fire Department of New York members attend a second funeral service for FDNY firefighter Michael Haub in Franklin Square, N.Y., Tuesday. Last week, the New York City medical examiner identified more of his remains recovered at Ground Zero. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
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L-R: Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) attend the September 11 commemoration ceremony. (Office of Gov. Cuomo)
9/11 anniversary
Roses and an American flag rest on one of the victims’ names at the September 11 memorial. (Office of Gov. Cuomo)