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New York Holds Ceremonies For The 2 Flights That Hit The Twin Towers


Americans began the day 20 years ago seeing two passenger planes crash into the World Trade Center towers in New York. The most vivid image for many on a morning of unimaginable scenes were of people leaping from the upper floors of the towers. Just over half an hour later, another flight crashed into the Pentagon and then another into a field in Shanksville, Pa.

Later this morning, President George W. Bush, who was, of course, in office at the time of the attacks, will speak at Shanksville. President Biden released a prerecorded speech last night.


PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: To the families of the 2,977 people from more than 90 nations killed on Sept. 11, 2001, in New York City, Arlington, Va., and Shanksville, Pa., and the thousands more who were injured, America and the world commemorate you and your loved ones.

SIMON: And within a few moments, we will hear a live ceremony to mark the moment when that first airplane, American Airlines Flight 11, struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

Joined now by NPR senior editor and correspondent Ron Elving and NPR's Jasmine Garsd, who is in New York - good morning to both of you, and thank you.

BIDEN: Good morning.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Morning, Scott.

SIMON: Jasmine, an impossible question - what does New York feel like this morning?

JASMINE GARSD, BYLINE: There's a sense of sadness. There's a sense of mourning. As I was walking around, there were a lot of people around the memorial just sitting with their heads down in deep reflection. You know, I also think that for a lot of New Yorkers - and this is certainly something a lot of New Yorkers I've spoken to have expressed to me - people who were directly affected by this - this is a moment to stay at home among friends in the neighborhood and kind of out of the public eye. It's almost too painful. But there's also a lot of sense of community. This was something that brought New Yorkers together - and yeah.

SIMON: You've been doing a lot of reporting on undocumented immigrants who lost friends and family in the attacks. I wonder what the years have been like for them - and this moment now.

GARSD: Absolutely horrific - no closure - I've been profiling a New York organization that worked with 76 undocumented families who lost people here at the World Trade Center - delivery boys, cooking staff, cleaners. Only about 12 of those families were willing to come forward and get help, in part because of - there was such a climate of xenophobia after the attacks and in part because it was just so difficult to prove the existence of people that were not in the legal framework of American society. And to me, this story was really important to talk about, how a tragic event like 9/11 exposed these other ongoing American tragedies.

SIMON: Ron, 20 years later, the country has changed. And there are still threats, aren't there?

ELVING: Yes - similar threats, in the sense that people don't really know where they might come from - people don't really know what exactly they are afraid of. Certainly, we have less complacency in this country than we did 20 years ago. People are wary of another 9/11, perhaps taking a different form and yet perhaps being just as deadly. There were people who wanted to be sure they were not in New York City today, not in Washington today, not in a place where they felt they would be particularly vulnerable. And that is a feeling we will probably have indefinitely.

SIMON: Yeah. What note did President Biden try to strike in his remarks last night, do you think?

ELVING: He seemed to be attempting to capture that mix of emotions that we always feel on 9/11 - sorrow, rage, confusion perhaps, hope for the future and, ultimately, compassion. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.