The United States will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the awful events of September 11, 2001, with ceremonies planned in New York City, Shanksville, PA, and the Pentagon.

The National September 11 Memorial & Museum will conduct its annual commemoration ceremony in which family members of 9/11 victims will gather on the Memorial Plaza to read aloud the names of those killed in the attacks as well as in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. The event had to be done virtually last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks coincides with the United States’ recent withdrawal from Afghanistan after nearly 20 years of war. The war started weeks after the 9/11 attacks. America and its allies attacked the bases that al-Qaeda terrorists had trained at and plotted the attacks from, as well as the Taliban, who provided al-Qaeda with a safe haven and had refused to turn them over to the United States.


The President’s Schedule

The White House has said that the president will visit all three sites and follow the same basic itinerary that President Obama followed on the 10th anniversary of the attacks in 2011 while paying respects to the nearly 3,000 people killed on that day. 

9/11 Memorial
The 9/11 Memorial lit up at night. (Photo by Jin Lee/9/11 Memorial)

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden plan to visit all three sites where the attacks unfolded: The World Trade Center in New York City; the Pentagon outside Washington, DC; and the field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed. Vice President Kamala Harris will travel to Shanksville with her husband Doug Emhoff before they join the Bidens at the Pentagon.

It is interesting to note that President Biden is the only person who was serving on the Foreign Relations Committee at the time and who still remains in elected office. This highlights the time passed as well as the turnover in America’s Congress. Today, the houses of Congress are filled with veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, a direct result of the attacks on 9/11.

Biden has been preaching that while we should acknowledge the events of 9/11, it is time for the nation to collectively move on. “The fundamental obligation of a [p]resident, in my opinion, is to defend and protect America… not against threats of 2001,” Biden said in August, “but against the threats of 2021 and tomorrow.”


In New York City

Ceremonies will begin with the 9/11 Memorial and Museum’s ceremony which will start with a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. to mark the time when the first hijacked plane struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

The reading of the victims’ names will continue through the morning with pauses to mark when the South Tower and the Pentagon were hit as well as when Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania. The ceremony will also mark the moments that the towers fell.

The New York City Fire and Police Departments will furnish an honor guard. Many of the victims were police officers and firemen who rushed into the towers in an attempt to save those inside. 

At 7:11 p.m. the city will shine its annual “Tributes in Light” two huge beams symbolizing the World Trade Center’s twin towers. They will remain lit until dawn on Sunday.

Tributes in Light NYC New York World Trade Center
The Tributes in Light in NYC at the site of the World Trade Center. (Wikimedia Commons)

In Shanksville, PA

On Friday night, September 10, the “Friends of Flight 93” hosted a candle lighting ceremony, lighting 40 lanterns in remembrance of the 40 passengers and crew on Flight 93 next to the Wall of Names at the memorial site. 

On Saturday morning, a private observance for family members and guests to honor the 40 people killed onboard United Airlines Flight 93 will be held at the National Memorial site outside of Shanksville.

The names of the passengers and crew members will be read as the Bells of Remembrance are rung.


At the Pentagon

The Defense Department has already begun its ceremonies. On Wednesday, Mark Lewis, Roy Wallace, Dr. Gerry Kitzhaber, and retired Col. Marilyn Wills were part of a roundtable discussion on being a survivor of that horrible day.

Vicky Lewis, an architect with the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial Visitor Education Center said, “I hope for people to not just remember the tragedy but to remember this amazing point of local, national, and global unification of a common cause.” 

On Saturday, ceremonies began with a flag unfurling at sunrise at the location where the hijacked plane, American Airlines Flight 77 struck the Pentagon. Later, DoD will hold a private ceremony, attended by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Army General Mark Milley to honor the 184 victims who died that morning. 

While the president will be involved in wreath-laying ceremonies and moments of silence at the three sites, he is not expected to give public remarks at any of the three locations. Instead, he will appear in a video produced by the White House recalling the attacks. The video will be released on Saturday morning.