Twenty years after hijacked passenger jets crashed into New York City’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon outside Washington, DC, people in the United States have come together to honour the nearly 3,000 lives lost on September 11, 2001.
Saturday’s ceremony at the September 11 Memorial in New York City began with a moment of silence at 8:46am (12:46 GMT), the exact time the first of two planes flew into the World Trade Center’s twin towers.
Relatives then began to read aloud the names of 2,977 victims, an annual ritual that lasts four hours.
“We love you and we miss you,” many of them said as somber violin music played at the official ceremony, attended by dignitaries including President Joe Biden and former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.
Mourners clutched photos of their loved ones, while music icon Bruce Springsteen sang his song I’ll See You in My Dreams. After nightfall, twin light beams will be projected into the New York sky.
“As we carry these 20 years forward, I find continuing appreciation for all of those who rose to be more than ordinary people,” said Mike Low, whose daughter was a flight attendant on the first plane.
The remembrances have become an annual tradition, but Saturday takes on special significance, coming 20 years after the morning that many view as a turning point in US history.
In a painful reminder of those changes, only weeks ago US and allied forces completed a chaotic withdrawal from the war the US started in Afghanistan shortly after the attacks in retaliation – which became the longest war in US history.
US forces toppled the Taliban, which had ruled Afghanistan since 1996, because the group had provided sanctuary to Osama bin Laden, leader of al-Qaeda, which carried out the 9/11 attacks. Bin Laden was hunted down and killed in Pakistan a decade later.
The Taliban, however, is now back in power in Afghanistan, while in Guantanamo Bay accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other men continue to await trial, nine years after charges were filed.
At Ground Zero, 2,753 people, from all over the world, were killed in the initial explosions, jumped to their deaths, or simply vanished in the inferno of the collapsing towers.
At the Pentagon, an airliner tore a fiery hole in the side of the superpower’s military nerve centre, killing 184 people in the plane and on the ground.
And in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the third wave of hijackers crashed into a field after passengers fought back, sending United 93 down before reaching its intended target – likely the US Capitol building in Washington.
The memorials come as national discord is overshadowing any sense of closure amid anger about the messy Kabul evacuation, which included 13 US soldiers killed by a suicide bomber, and stung by the broader realisation of failure and defeat.