Americans are looking back on the horror and legacy of 9/11, gathering Monday at memorials, firehouses, city halls and elsewhere to observe the 22nd anniversary of the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil.
Commemorations stretch from the attack sites — at New York’s World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pennsylvania — to Alaska and beyond. President Joe Biden is due at a ceremony on a military base in Anchorage.
His visit, en route to Washington, D.C., 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. The hijacked plane attacks claimed nearly 3,000 lives and 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,” said Eddie Ferguson, the fire-rescue chief in Virginia’s Goochland County.
It’s more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) from the Pentagon and more than three times as far from New York. But a sense of connection is enshrined in a local memorial incorporating steel from the World Trade Center’s destroyed twin towers.
The predominantly rural county of 25,000 people holds not just one but 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, tolling bells, candlelight vigils and other activities. In Columbus, Indiana, 911 dispatchers broadcast a remembrance message to police, fire and EMS radios throughout the 50,000-person city, which also holds a public memorial ceremony.
Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts raise and lower the flag at a commemoration in Fenton, Missouri, where a “Heroes Memorial” includes a piece of World Trade Center steel and a plaque honoring 9/11 victim Jessica Leigh Sachs. Some of her relatives live in the St. Louis suburb of 4,000 residents.
“We’re just a little bitty community,” said Mayor Joe Maurath, but “it’s important for us to continue to remember these events. Not just 9/11, but all of the events that make us free.”
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 is due to join the ceremony on the National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum plaza. The event will not feature remarks from political figures, instead giving the podium to victims’ relatives for an hourslong reading of the names of the dead.
James Giaccone signed up to read again this year in memory of his brother, Joseph Giaccone, 43. The family attends the ceremony every year to hear Joseph’s name.
“If their name is spoken out loud, they don’t disappear,” James Giaccone said in a recent interview.
The commemoration is crucial to him.
“I hope I never see the day when they minimize this,” he said. “It’s a day that changed history.”
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.
In Pennsylvania, where one of the hijacked jets crashed after passengers tried to storm the cockpit, a remembrance and wreath-laying is scheduled at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Stoystown operated by the National Park Service. Harris’ husband, Doug Emhoff, is expected to attend the ceremony.
The memorial site will offer 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 to the free “National Day of Learning” program, which will be available through the fall, organizers say.
“We need to get the word out to the next generation,” said memorial spokesperson Katherine Hostetler, a National Park Service ranger.