NEW YORK — With tolling bells, personal tributes and tears, Americans looked back Monday on 9/11 at anniversary observances that stretched from ground zero to small towns.
People gathered at memorials, firehouses, city halls, campuses and elsewhere to observe the 22nd anniversary of the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil.
“For those of us who lost people on that day, that day is still happening. Everybody else moves on. And you find a way to go forward, but that day is always happening for you,” Edward Edelman said as he arrived at ground zero to honor his slain brother-in-law, Daniel McGinley.
President Joe Biden was due at a ceremony on a military base in Anchorage, Alaska. His visit, en route to Washington from a trip to India and Vietnam, is a reminder that the impact of 9/11 was felt in every corner of the nation, however remote. Nearly 3,000 people were killed when hijacked planes crashed into New York’s World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field, in an attack that reshaped American foreign policy and domestic fears.
On that day, “we were one country, one nation, one people, just like it should be. That was the feeling — that everyone came together and did what we could, where we were at, to try to help,” Eddie Ferguson, the fire-rescue chief in Virginia’s Goochland County, said in an interview last week.
It’s more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) from the Pentagon and more than three times as far from New York. But the predominantly rural county of 25,000 people has a local Sept. 11 memorial and holds two anniversary commemorations: a morning service focused on first responders and an evening ceremony honoring all the victims.
Other communities across the country pay tribute with moments of silence, candlelight vigils and other activities.
In Iowa, a 21-mile (34-kilometer) march set off at 9:11 a.m. Monday from the Des Moines suburb of Waukee to the state Capitol. In Columbus, Indiana, observances include a remembrance message sent to police, fire and EMS radios throughout the 50,000-person city.
Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts raise and lower the flag at a commemoration in Fenton, Missouri, where a “Heroes Memorial” includes steel from the World Trade Center’s fallen twin towers and a plaque honoring Jessica Leigh Sachs, a 9/11 victim with relatives in the St. Louis suburb of 4,000 residents. Pepperdine University’s campus in Malibu, California, displays nearly 3,000 American flags, one for each victim, plus the flags of every country that lost a citizen on 9/11.
New Jersey’s Monmouth County, which was home to some 9/11 victims, made Sept. 11 a holiday this year for county employees so they could attend commemorations.
As another way of marking the anniversary, many Americans do volunteer work on what Congress has designated both Patriot Day and a National Day of Service and Remembrance.
At ground zero, Vice President Kamala Harris joined other dignitaries at the ceremony on the National Sept. 11 Memorial plaza. The event doesn’t feature remarks from political figures, instead giving the podium to victims’ relatives for an hourslong reading of the names of the dead — and brief personal messages.
Some family members made patriotic declarations about American values and thanked the military. One lauded the Navy SEALs who killed al-Qaida leader and 9/11 plotter Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011. Another appealed for peace and justice. One acknowledged the many lives lost in the post-9/11 “War on Terror.” And many shared personal reflections on missing loved ones.
“Though we never met, I am honored to carry your name and legacy with me,” said Manuel João DaMota Jr., who was born after his father and namesake died.
For Gabrielle Gabrielli, reading the names of those lost “is the biggest honor of my life.”
“We have to keep the memory of everybody who died alive. This is their legacy,” said Gabrielli, who lost her uncle and godfather, Richard Gabrielle. “This is the final resting place. It’s sacred.”
About 1,100 victims have yet to have any remains identified.
Biden, a Democrat, will be the first president to commemorate Sept. 11 in Alaska, or anywhere in the western U.S. He and his predecessors have gone to one or another of the attack sites in most years, though Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Barack Obama each marked the anniversary on the White House lawn at times. Obama followed one of those observances by recognizing the military with a visit to Fort Meade in Maryland.
First lady Jill Biden is due to lay a wreath at the 9/11 memorial at the Pentagon, where a giant American flag hung over the side of the building and musicians played taps at 9:37 a.m., the precise moment American Airlines Flight 77 hit the military headquarters.
“As the years go by, it may feel that the world is moving on, or even forgetting what happened here on Sept. 11, 2001,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said. “But please know this: The men and women of the Department of Defense will always remember.”
Harris’ husband, Doug Emhoff, is expected at a ceremony at the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where one of the hijacked jets crashed after passengers tried to storm the cockpit.
The memorial site, run by the National Park Service, is offering a new educational video, virtual tour and other materials for teachers to use in classrooms. Educators with a total of more than 10,000 students have registered for access, organizers say.
“We need to get the word out to the next generation,” said memorial spokesperson Katherine Hostetler, a National Park Service ranger.