Live updates: The nation pauses to mark the 21st anniversary of 9/11

Published September 11, 2022 at 6:02 AM EDT
A U.S. flag and a flower are displayed at the 9/11 Memorial in New York on Saturday.
Yuki Iwamura
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AFP via Getty Images
A U.S. flag and a flower are displayed at the 9/11 Memorial in New York on Saturday.

Events are underway to commemorate the 21st anniversary of the worst terror attack in U.S. history. In New York, family members are reading the names of the victims, while President Biden and the First Lady were set to mark the anniversary with remarks at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Penn., respectively.

The scene at the Pentagon

Biden lays a wreath and vows to defend democracy in remarks at the Pentagon

Posted September 11, 2022 at 11:54 AM EDT
President Biden lays a wreath at the Pentagon to commemorate the 21st anniversary of the September 11th attacks.
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
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Getty Images North America
President Biden lays a wreath at the Pentagon to commemorate the 21st anniversary of the September 11th attacks.

Under a steady rain at the Pentagon, President Biden laid a wreath in honor of those killed on September 11th and gave remarks underscoring the importance of fighting for the American ideals of equality and democracy.

“On this day, it is not about the past. It’s about the future,” Biden said. “We have an obligation, a duty, a responsibility to defend, preserve and protect our democracy.”

He personally recalled his memories the day, when he was serving as a U.S. Senator. “Walking up to my office, I could see the smoke and flames,” he said, acknowledging the victims of the attack, the first responders who dug through rubble and the millions of Americans who enlisted in the military in the years that followed.

His remarks come a year after the chaotic end to the U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan, where more than 800,000 U.S. soldiers served over two decades. According to the Pentagon, 2,352 American soldiers died in Afghanistan. “We owe you an incredible debt, a debt that can never be repaid,” he said.

How to talk to children about the attacks

Posted September 11, 2022 at 10:59 AM EDT
Relatives of the victims look at the 9/11 Memorial in New York City on Sept. 11, 2022, on the 21st anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and Shanksville, Penn.
YUKI IWAMURA/AFP via Getty Images
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AFP
Relatives of the victims look at the 9/11 Memorial in New York City on Sept. 11, 2022, on the 21st anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and Shanksville, Penn.

Teaching K-12 students about the attacks of 9/11 has always been difficult. But with the 21st anniversary of the attacks this weekend, time has brought a new challenge: Students today have no memories of that day. Ahead of the 20th anniversary of the attacks last year, NPR's Cory Turner and Sarah McCammon checked in with educators and experts for advice on how to approach 9/11 with kids for whom 9/11 is simply history.

Experts say there are a few ways to approach these tough conversations.

First and foremost, keep it age-appropriate. The Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility offers several 9/11 lesson plans on its website, but says that "children ages 4 to 7 are too young for a lesson on September 11. They lack the knowledge to make sense of the attacks and their aftermath in any meaningful way."

Make room for discomfort. Brandon Graves, an elementary school teach in Louisville, Ky., says the scale of pain and loss can understandably unsettle some young students. "They're not used to that," he says. "They're used to stories geared toward kids, and so there's a happy ending."

Be clear who the attackers were — and weren't. Emily Gardner, an elementary school librarian in Texas, says it's important to be clear and specific when talking about the group of 19 men behind the attacks. "We're very careful to answer that question, that it's al-Qaida, it's a terrorist organization," Gardner says. "It's not Muslims. It's not people from a certain country."

Stress how they can still help. "We give students an opportunity to respond and take action," says Gardner. She remembers when her school's art teacher "worked with our students and talked about art as empathy. And so our students made paper flowers that we mailed to the memorial."

The Sept. 11 memorial itself suggests several activities that can help kids feel helpful, including making a first responder badge or survivor tree leaves.

Read more about how to talk to children about the attacks here.

Member Station Reports
from the archives

Part of Flight 93 fell on this reporter's land

Posted September 11, 2022 at 10:44 AM EDT
 Visitors walk through the Flight 93 National Memorial in southwestern Pennsylvania. The memorial is dedicated to the people who died on United Airlines Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001.
Tim Lambert
Visitors walk through the Flight 93 National Memorial in southwestern Pennsylvania. The memorial is dedicated to the people who died on United Airlines Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001.

On Sept. 11, 2001, United Airlines Flight 93 was hijacked by four al-Qaida terrorists. The passengers and crew fought back and because of that, the plane crashed outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania, instead of its likely target: the U.S. Capitol.

Part of the plane crashed onto land owned by Tim Lambert, a public radio reporter at WITF in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The crash would end up connecting Lambert, in surprising ways, to the first responders who managed the aftermath and to the families of the people who died on board. He gained access and insight into 9/11 that no other reporter had.

Last year, Lambert and NPR's Scott Detrow tell the story of Flight 93: what happened that day and what happened over the years to come.

The reading of the names

The reading of the names of the victims is underway

Posted September 11, 2022 at 10:18 AM EDT

Family members of victims are taking turns this morning reading the names of the 2,983 people killed on 9/11 and in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. It will take the families several hours to read the names of all of the victims.

The ceremony also features six moments of silence: Four to observe the moments that each plane crashed, and two to mark when each tower fell."

You can watch a feed of the ceremony below:

He checked 2 hijackers into their flight and it has haunted him ever since

Posted September 11, 2022 at 9:58 AM EDT
Vaughn Allex and his wife, Denise, on a visit with StoryCorps.
StoryCorps
Vaughn Allex and his wife, Denise, on a visit with StoryCorps.

On Sept. 11, 2001, two men arrived at the ticket counter late for American Airlines Flight 77 out of Dulles International Airport. This was before the days of the Transportation Security Administration, when airport security was quite different from what it is today. At the time, the man working at the counter, Vaughn Allex, followed procedure and checked them through.

Those two men were among the hijackers who crashed that flight into the Pentagon — killing 189 people, including themselves.

"I didn't know what I had done," Allex told StoryCorps in 2016. He didn't find out until the next day what had happened. "I came to work and people wouldn't look at me in the eye." Officials handed him the manifest for the flight. "I just stared at it for a second and then I looked up, I go, 'I did it, didn't I?' "

Once it became clear what had happened, Allex says people stopped talking to him. He began to think that he was to blame for everything that had happened on Sept. 11. That perhaps he could have changed it, if only he'd done something differently.

Weeks and even months passed like this, when sometimes even a simple mention of Sept. 11 could trigger a brutal wave of guilt.

Allex says he's never been able to fully move past the memory. He says it remains with him always in some form or another. But with time, he has managed to start talking about it.

Read more about Allex's story here.

video

They lost loved ones in 9/11. We invited them to leave a voicemail in their memory

Posted September 11, 2022 at 9:39 AM EDT

Voicemails are deeply embedded into memories of 9/11.

On that day in 2001, as people all across New York City tried to get hold of their friends and family, cellphone networks were overloaded.

And for some of the victims inside the planes and towers, leaving a voicemail was their last way of communicating with their loved ones.

NPR connected with six people who were willing to share their stories with us — people like Trish Straine, whose husband died in the north tower just six days after their second son was born; and Matthew Bocchi, who was only 9 years old when he lost his father in the attacks.

commemorations

The Tribute in Light appears in the Manhattan skyline

Posted September 11, 2022 at 7:20 AM EDT
People sit before the East River as the Tribute in Light installation lights the New York City skyline on Saturday night.
Ed Jones
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AFP via Getty Images
People sit before the East River as the Tribute in Light installation illuminates the New York City skyline on Saturday night.

Two beams of light appeared in the New York skyline on Saturday night.

It's part of the 9/11 commemorations as the lights beam up from Ground Zero in lower Manhattan, resembling the former Twin Towers.

The 9/11 Memorial & Museum describes the installation — the Tribute in Light — as "an iconic symbol that both honors those killed and celebrates the unbreakable spirit of New York."

commemorations

Events have been scheduled to mark the 21st anniversary

Posted September 11, 2022 at 6:01 AM EDT

Communities around the nation will take time to remember the nearly 3,000 lives taken on Sept. 11, 2001.

Here are some of the planned events:

  • New York — The names of the victims are read at Ground Zero. Vice President Harris attends
  • Pentagon — President Biden delivers remarks and lays a wreath
  • Shanksville, Pennsylvania — First lady Jill Biden speaks
  • Washington, D.C. — The National Law Enforcement Memorial and Museum hosts a service