The 9/11 anniversary commemoration at ground zero began Saturday with a tolling bell and a moment of silence, exactly 20 years after the start of the deadliest terror attack on US soil. The anniversary comes under the pall of a pandemic and in the shadow of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, now ruled by the same militants who gave safe haven to the 9/11 plotters. The attacks killed nearly 3,000 people and marked the start of a new era of fear, war, politics, patriotism, and tragedy, per the AP. "It's hard because you hoped that this would just be a different time and a different world. But sometimes history starts to repeat itself and not in the best of ways," says Thea Trinidad, who lost her father in the attacks and was set to read victims' names at the ceremony at ground zero in New York. More on the somber tributes and messages as the day progresses:
- President Biden: The commander in chief joined victims' families and first responders, as well as former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, at the site in New York City where the twin towers fell on Sept. 11, 2001. Later in the day, Biden is set to also visit the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pa., where Flight 93 crashed. He put out a taped message calling for "unity" on Friday night.
- George W. Bush: No. 43, who was president at the time of the attacks, spoke from Shanksville, where Vice President Kamala Harris also spoke. "The world was loud with carnage, and sirens," he told the crowd gathered there. "And then quiet with missing voices that would never be heard again."
- Donald Trump: In a video statement released Saturday morning, the most recent former president called it a "very sad day," one "that represents great sorrow for our country." He lauded the "bravery" of 9/11 first responders, then launched into a minute-long attack on the Afghanistan withdrawal, in which he said Biden was "made to look like a fool." Trump also issued a statement congratulating ex-NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani "(for the 20th time!) ... for having shown such leadership and doing such an incredible job during and after the attack on our Nation!"
- Obama: "9/11 reminded us how so many Americans give of themselves in extraordinary ways—not just in moments of great crisis, but every single day," No. 44 said in a statement.
- Clinton: GWB's predecessor honored 9/11 victims and "those whose lives were forever changed" in his own statement, adding: "We owe it to all of them to come together again with unity, hope, compassion, and resolve."
- Jimmy Carter: The oldest living ex-president was said to be honoring the day in private, with no public appearances scheduled, per People.
- At the Pentagon: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin remembered those who lost their lives in DC, noting that "as the years march on, we must ensure that all our fellow Americans know and understand what happened here on 9/11," per the AP.
- A performance from The Boss: With guitar and harmonica in hand, Bruce Springsteen performed his song "I'll See You in My Dreams" for victims' families at the NYC's 9/11 Memorial Plaza.
- From across the pond: "My thoughts and prayers ... remain with the victims, survivors, and families affected, as well as the first responders and rescue workers called to duty," Queen Elizabeth said in a message to Biden, per Reuters. Prime Minister Boris Johnson added in a video message that the terrorists behind the 9/11 attacks "failed to drive our nations apart, or to cause us to abandon our values, or to live in permanent fear."
- Check out our gallery above for pictures from the day.
- Follow along with the #NeverForget hashtag for commemorations from people across America and the world.
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