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Sabtu, 11 September 2021

‘An evil spectre descended’: New York marks 20th anniversary of September 11 - Sydney Morning Herald

New York: The morning was remarkably similar to that exactly 20 years earlier. Sun glowing in a clear blue sky. Temperatures in the mid-20 degrees celsius. A light breeze blowing in off the Hudson River. New York at her late summer finest as the city that never sleeps took a breath to mark the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

Americans are not renowned for their subtlety, but this occasion was restrained and dignified. Only the family members of those who died in the attacks, plus a few journalists, were invited to the official commemoration ceremony at the World Trade Centre site. The focus was not on patriotism or politics but paying tribute to the 2977 victims of the worst foreign terrorist attack in American history.

From left, former president Bill Clinton, former first lady Hillary Clinton, former president Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, President Joe Biden, first lady Jill Biden, former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, Bloomberg’s partner Diana Taylor, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, at the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York.

From left, former president Bill Clinton, former first lady Hillary Clinton, former president Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, President Joe Biden, first lady Jill Biden, former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, Bloomberg’s partner Diana Taylor, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, at the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York.Credit:Chip Somodevilla/Pool Photo via AP

The family members started arriving at dawn, many of them wearing specially made T-shirts emblazoned with images of their deceased loved ones.

At 8.46am everyone at the memorial observed a minute’s silence to mark the time hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 smashed into the North Tower.

Family members read out, in alphabetical order, the names of those who died. This took almost four hours, a reminder of the scale of devastation the terrorists caused.

Mike Low, whose daughter Sara was a flight attendant on Flight 11, said he and his family had experienced “unbearable sorrow and disbelief” since the loss of his daughter.

Melinda Moran and Haydee Lillo embrace after finding out they lost people who knew each other, next to the North Reflecting Pool during a ceremony at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York.

Melinda Moran and Haydee Lillo embrace after finding out they lost people who knew each other, next to the North Reflecting Pool during a ceremony at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York.Credit:Mike Segar-Pool/Getty Images

“My memory goes back to that terrible day when it felt like an evil spectre had descended on our world,” he said.

“But it was also a time when many people acted above and beyond the ordinary.”

There was a pause each time a milestone arrived: the plane striking the South Tower, the plane striking the Pentagon, the plane crashing into a field in Pennsylvania.

After the minute’s silence for the plane that struck the South Tower, beloved rock and roll star Bruce Springsteen made a surprise appearance.

Bruce Springsteen performs at the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York.

Bruce Springsteen performs at the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York.Credit:Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Playing solo on an acoustic guitar, he performed his 2020 song I’ll See You in My Dreams (“When all the summers have come to an end/I’ll see you in my dreams/We’ll meet and live and love again”).

After holding it together all morning, the surviving family members of Thomas Swift burst into tears. Swift, a Morgan Stanley vice president, died in the attacks at age 30. Springsteen was his favourite musician. “There are no coincidences in life,” his brother Peter said.

Roxanne Nedd, 57, was there to remember her late husband Jerome. He worked as a chef in the Windows on the World restaurant on the top floors of the North Tower. He died in the attacks, leaving behind two sons who were then aged nine and 11.

“They have lived their lives without knowing their dad,” Roxanne said. “I know their lives would have been different if he was alive. My husband was one of those people you could always count on.”

Roxanne Nedd, whose husband Jerome died in the September 11 attacks.

Roxanne Nedd, whose husband Jerome died in the September 11 attacks.Credit:Matthew Knott

President Joe Biden appeared at the ceremony to greet the victims’ families. Accompanying him were wife Jill, Barack and Michelle Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump did not attend the event.

Deferring to the victims’ family members, Biden did not speak at the ceremony. In a video released the day before he said he believed there was one central lesson from the attacks.

“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.

Speaking at a commemoration event in Shanksville, Pennsylvania former president George W. Bush was more pointed, drawing a link between the foreign terrorism of the past and more recent domestic extremism such as the January 6 storming of the Capitol. (Shanksville is where the hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 crashed 20 years ago, killing 44 people).

Former President George W. Bush, right, next to former first lady Laura Bush, takes his seat after he spoke at a memorial for the passengers and crew of United Flight 93 at Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Former President George W. Bush, right, next to former first lady Laura Bush, takes his seat after he spoke at a memorial for the passengers and crew of United Flight 93 at Shanksville, Pennsylvania.Credit:AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

“There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home,” Bush, who was president during the attacks, said. “But in their disdain for pluralism, in their disregard for human life, in their determination to defile national symbols, they are children of the same foul spirit. And it is our continuing duty to confront them.”

By 10 am O’Hara’s, a pub just a few steps from the World Trade Centre site, was doing a roaring trade in beers and Bloody Marys. It’s a favourite hangout for local police officers and firefighters.

Among those sipping a Bloody Mary was Wendy Norman, a fire-fighter who travelled to New York from her home in Florida to assist in the recovery effort after the attacks. For 22 days she treated the burns and blisters of those searching for survivors and victims’ remains in the scalding hot wreckage.

“We were honoured we were able to help,” she said of those who travelled from across the US in the aftermath of the attacks.

Firefighter Wendy Norman drinking a Bloody Mary at O’Hara’s pub near the World Trade Centre site.

Firefighter Wendy Norman drinking a Bloody Mary at O’Hara’s pub near the World Trade Centre site.Credit:Matthew Knott

At lunchtime a small ceremony was held next to the Raging Bull statue near Wall Street in honour of the 10 Australians and two New Zealanders who died on September 11.

“This was not one civilisation against another, it was one group of evil people against humanity itself,” said Australia’s ambassador to the US Arthur Sinodinos, who was working as John Howard’s chief-of-staff at the time.

Sinodinos said that, for all the talk of American decline, the attacks showed “the resilience of the American spirit”.

“We remember all those people covered in dust and powder trying to help other people,” he said. “This was New York and America at its best.”

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2021-09-11 21:30:47Z
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