New York, September 11, 2001: Smoke rises from the burning twin towers of the World Trade Center after hijacked planes fell into the towers. (Source: Richard Drew / AP / dpa)
The attack on the World Trade Center in New York marks the 20th anniversary. Four ex-US presidents, relatives and survivors remember the victims – but the focus is also on Afghanistan.
The United States remembered the victims in moving memorial services to mark the 20th anniversary of the devastating attacks on September 11th . In the presence of US President Joe Biden at 8:46 a.m. (local time), the sound of a bell initiated a minute’s silence at the ground zero attack site in southern Manhattan in New York – exactly at the time when the Islamist terrorists first announced 20 years ago four hijacked aircraft had flown into one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center. After the minute’s silence, relatives read the names of the almost 3,000 people killed, sometimes with tears.
The terrorists hijacked four aircraft on September 11, 2001. After they piloted American Airlines Flight 11 into the north tower of the World Trade Center, another plane flew into the south tower a short time later. American Airlines Flight 77 directed the attackers to the Department of Defense in Washington. A fourth plane crashed in Pennsylvania after people on board resisted the hijackers.
The mastermind behind the attacks, Osama bin Laden , was killed in a US military operation in 2011 after a long search. Mourning events also took place at the Pentagon and the Shanksville crash site on Saturday. In Pennsylvania, George W. Bush , who was US President on September 11th, also took part .
Numerous high-ranking guests
In addition to President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden , numerous relatives of victims and survivors came to the memorial service at today’s memorial in New York . Former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton were also present with their wives. Mike Low, whose daughter Sara worked as a flight attendant and was killed in one of the hijacked aircraft on September 11th, should be thought of as “completely normal people”.
“For the past 20 years, my family has experienced incredible suffering at the thought of lives that could no longer be lived,” he said. Then musician Bruce Springsteen sang his song “I’ll See You In My Dreams”. A speech Biden was not planned.
National unity as the greatest strength
National unity is the greatest strength of the United States, Biden had already said in advance by video message on the occasion of the commemoration. In the days after the attacks, heroic action, resilience and “a true sense of national unity” were demonstrated. Ex-President Obama expressed his condolences to the relatives of the victims and remembered the emergency services at the time and the US military. The military’s courage over the past 20 years also helped bring down bin Laden. Obama was president when a special unit of the military killed the then al-Qaeda chief in Pakistan.
After the shock waves that September 11th sent out into the world, Article 5 was activated for the first and so far only time in the history of NATO, according to which an armed attack on a NATO member is considered an attack on all members. This led to Germany and numerous other NATO states participating in the war against the Taliban and the terrorist organization Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan . This mission came to an end a few days ago after a chaotic withdrawal of the troops, which was criticized as hasty – the Taliban retook the country within a short time and are once again the de facto rulers of Afghanistan.
No event in recent history has shaped the United States and its society more than that fateful Tuesday 20 years ago, when the terrorist network Al-Qaeda and its then boss Bin Laden were still relatively unknown. After September 11, counter-terrorism was fundamentally expanded and the state apparatus was massively reshaped. As a result, the USA changed significantly, with many describing the times of the persistent fear of terrorism as growing paranoia at the expense of earlier ease.
Civil rights were severely curtailed by the “Patriot Act”, the highly controversial prison camp in Guantanamo, Cuba, and new authorities and units were established. Some changes are clearly visible in the country, such as the controls at the airports or the police presence on the streets. But a lot happens covertly, such as the extended monitoring and intensive control of data.
“War on terror”
After the attacks, the USA went into the “war on terror”. After the invasion of Afghanistan, the war in Iraq followed in 2003, the effects of which ultimately also favored the establishment of the terrorist militia Islamic State (IS). Coordinated attacks like the one on September 11th presumably also thwarted extensive security measures in the United States. Nevertheless, there were fatal attacks by lone perpetrators in the United States, especially in 2015 and 2016.
Two decades after the attacks, there are now millions of children, adolescents and young adults who cannot remember 9/11 or were not yet born. They found out about the attacks either at school or through stories from family members or acquaintances.
At the place where the towers of the World Trade Center stood, waterfalls are splashing in memory of the victims of September 11th – the area around it has been rebuilt and a new high-rise, the “One World Trade Center”, is the tallest New York buildings over the city. But memories stay awake in New York – also because people who were there at the time, especially rescue workers, still die of secondary diseases caused by pollutants in the air.
Baerbock and Scholz also speak out
A number of other personalities also spoke out in messages on September 11th. “Today we commemorate a dark day that has burned itself into the minds of millions of people around the world,” said UN Secretary General António Guterres . British Prime Minister Boris Johnson stressed that the attacks did not achieve their aim of undermining belief in freedom and democracy.
While the top candidate of the SPD, Olaf Scholz , announced that terror should have no place in the world, Annalena Baerbock , chairman of the Greens, warned that a critical look at the development of the fight against terror was always needed.