HUNDREDS have flocked to ground zero to commemorate those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attack 18 years ago.
Across the country millions of Americans once again promise to “never forget” the deadliest terror attack on American soil which killed 2,977 people.
In New York, victims’ relatives assembled outside the Freedom Tower to observe a moment of silence.
The silence began with a tolling of bells at 8:46 am, the moment the first hijacked plane slammed into the World Trade Centre’s north tower.
The names of all those who died when the towers fell were read out to crowd gathered in solemn mourning.
Margie Miller, who lost her husband, Joel, said at the ceremony, which she attends every year: “As long as the city will gift us this moment, I will be here.
“I want people to remember.”
After so many years of anniversaries, she has come to know other victims’ relatives and to appreciate being with them.
“There’s smiles in between the tears that say we didn’t do this journey on our own. That we were here for each other. And that’s the piece that I think we get from being here,” she said.
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump led a moment of silence on the White House South Lawn and then were expected to join an observance at the Pentagon.
Vice President Mike Pence is due to to speak at the third crash site, near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Former President George W. Bush, commander in chief at the time of the 2001 attacks, is due at an afternoon wreath-laying at the Pentagon.
The anniversary ceremonies centre on remembering the nearly 3,000 people killed when hijacked planes slammed into the trade centre, the Pentagon and a field near Shanksville on September 11, 2001.
All those victims’ names are read aloud at the ground zero ceremony by loved ones now, quite often, ones too young to have known their lost relatives.
“Uncle Joey, I wish I got to know you,” Joseph Henry said of his uncle and namesake, firefighter Joseph Patrick Henry. “I know that you’re watching over us right now.”
Others made a point of spotlighting the suffering of another group of people tied to the tragedy: firefighters, police and others who died or fell ill after exposure to the wreckage and the toxins unleashed in it.
“As we honour and remember all those who died on 9/11 and their families, let us not forget the first responders who have died since 9/11 and their families,” Maureen Pulia said after reading names at ground zero. Her cousin Thomas Anthony Casoria, a firefighter, was killed there.
A compensation fund for people with potentially Sept. 11-related health problems has awarded more than $5.5 billion so far. More than 51,000 people have applied. Over the summer, Congress made sure the fund won’t run dry.
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America and the world are still grappling with the aftermath of the attacks that shook the very fabric of western society.
The effects are obvious from airport security checkpoints to the still on-going conflict in Afghanistan, which has become America’s longest war.
Earlier this week, Trump called off a secret meeting at Camp David with Taliban and Afghan government leaders and declared the peace talks “dead.”
At the ceremony the President confirmed the newly intensified assault on the Afghan extremist group would “continue”.
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