U.S. remembers 9-11 as pandemic changes tribute traditions

FILE – In this May 31, 2018, file photo, visitors to the Flight 93 National Memorial pause at the Wall of Names honoring 40 passengers and crew members of United Flight 93 killed when the hijacked jet crashed at the site during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, near Shanksville, Pa. Families impacted by the terrorist attacks say it’s important for the nation to pause and remember the hijacked-plane attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people at the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon and near Shanksville on Sept. 11, 2001, shaping American policy, perceptions of safety and daily life in places from airports to office buildings. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)FILE – In this May 31, 2018, file photo, visitors to the Flight 93 National Memorial pause at the Wall of Names honoring 40 passengers and crew members of United Flight 93 killed when the hijacked jet crashed at the site during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, near Shanksville, Pa. Families impacted by the terrorist attacks say it’s important for the nation to pause and remember the hijacked-plane attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people at the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon and near Shanksville on Sept. 11, 2001, shaping American policy, perceptions of safety and daily life in places from airports to office buildings. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 8, 2013, file photo, Charlotte Newman, 8, visits the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York. On Sept. 11, 2020, Americans will commemorate 9/11 with tributes that have been altered by coronavirus precautions and woven into the presidential campaign. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)FILE - In this Sept. 8, 2013, file photo, Charlotte Newman, 8, visits the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York. On Sept. 11, 2020, Americans will commemorate 9/11 with tributes that have been altered by coronavirus precautions and woven into the presidential campaign. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
A family member gets emotional at the Tunnel to Towers ceremony, Sept. 11, 2020, in New York. Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen will attend the ceremony where the names of nearly 3,000 victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks will be read by family members. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)A family member gets emotional at the Tunnel to Towers ceremony, Sept. 11, 2020, in New York. Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen will attend the ceremony where the names of nearly 3,000 victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks will be read by family members. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Americans commemorated 9-11 Friday as a new national crisis — the coronavirus pandemic — reconfigured and divided anniversary ceremonies and a presidential campaign carved a path through the observances.

In New York, victims’ relatives gathered Friday morning for split-screen remembrances, one at the Sept. 11 memorial plaza at the World Trade Center and another on a nearby corner, set up by a separate 9-11-related organization.

The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation objected to the memorial’s decision to forgo a longstanding tradition of having relatives read the names of the dead, often adding poignant tributes. Memorial leaders said the change for the 19th anniversary of the attacks was a coronavirus-safety precaution.

Kathy Swift arrived early at the alternative ceremony, wearing a T-shirt honouring her slain brother, Thomas Swift, who worked in finance.

“We still have to remember,” said Swift, 61. “The whole country’s going downhill. It’s one thing after another, and now with the COVID. I’m glad they’re still having this, though.”

President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden both planned to go — at different times — to the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Trump is speaking at the morning ceremony, the White House said. Biden planned to pay respects there in the afternoon after attending the observance at the 9-11 memorial in New York, where he and Vice-President Mike Pence greeted each other at ground zero before the ceremony began with the usual tolling of a bell.

Pence was due later at the Tunnel to Towers Foundation ceremony, where he and his wife, Karen, were to read Bible passages.

In short, the anniversary of 9-11 is a complicated occasion in a maelstrom of a year, as the U.S. grapples with a health crisis, searches its soul over racial injustice and prepares to choose a leader to chart a path forward.

Still, 9-11 families say it’s important for the nation to pause and remember the hijacked-plane attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people at the trade centre, at the Pentagon in Washington and near Shanksville on Sept. 11, 2001, shaping American policy, perceptions of safety and daily life in places from airports to office buildings.

Friday will mark Trump’s second time observing the 9-11 anniversary at the Flight 93 memorial, where he made remarks in 2018. Biden spoke at the memorial’s dedication in 2011, when he was vice-president.

The ground zero ceremony in New York has a longstanding custom of not allowing politicians to speak, though they can attend. Biden did so as vice-president in 2010, and Trump as a candidate in 2016.

Although the candidates will be focused on the commemorations, the political significance of their focus on Shanksville is hard to ignore: Pennsylvania is a must-win state for both. Trump won it by less than a percentage point in 2016.

Around the country, some communities have cancelled9-11 commemorations because of the pandemic, while others are going ahead, sometimes with modifications.

The Pentagon’s observance will be so restricted that not even victims’ families can attend, though small groups can visit the memorial there later in the day.

At the New York memorial, thousands of family members are still invited. But they’ll hear a recording of the names from speakers spread around the vast plaza, a plan that memorial leaders felt would avoid close contact at a stage but still allow families to remember their loved ones at the place where they died.

But some victims’ relatives felt the change robbed the observance of its emotional impact. The Tunnel to Towers Foundation arranged its own, simultaneous ceremony a few blocks away, saying there was no reason that people couldn’t recite names while keeping a safe distance.

The readers stood alone at podiums that were wiped down between each person.

The two organizations also tussled over the Tribute in Light, a pair of powerful beams that shine into the night sky near the trade centre and evoke its fallen twin towers. The 9-11 memorial initially cancelled the display, citing virus-safety concerns for the installation crew. After the Tunnel to Towers Foundation vowed to put up the lights instead, the memorial changed course with help from its chairman, former Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Tunnel to Towers, meanwhile, arranged to display single beams for the first time at the Shanksville memorial and the Pentagon.

Over the years, the anniversary also has become a day for volunteering. Because of the pandemic, the 9-11 National Day of Service and Remembrance organization is encouraging people this year to make donations or take other actions that can be accomplished at home.

Karen Matthews And Jennifer Peltz, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

9-11

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The average selling price of a single-family home in Terrace has climbed 26 per cent in the last year. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)
House prices soar in Terrace

Average prices increased by 26 per cent

Nurse Vicki Niemi administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to Joyce, 88, on Mar. 23, 2020 at the Terrace Sportsplex. All adults in Terrace are now eligible to register for a COVID-19 vaccination. (Ben Bogstie/Terrace Standard)
All adults in Terrace can now register for a COVID-19 vaccine appointment

Community members can register by calling 833-838-2323 or visiting getvaccinated.gov.bc.ca

April 2020 to March 2021 was the second wettest year on record since at least 1969, according to Environment Canada. (Ben Bogstie/Terrace Standard)
VIDEO: Terrace records wettest spell in over a half-century

Terrace saw close to 1,500 millimetres of precipitation between April 2020 and March 2021

Terrace fire department responded to a call from Skeena Saw Mills at the early hours of Friday morning. (Binny Paul/ Terrace Standard)
UPDATE: Fire crews respond to early morning incident at Skeena Sawmills

No injuries were reported as mill workers immediately alerted the fire department after seeing smoke

Terrace Tim Hortons on Keith Ave. experienced a fire during the morning of April 4, 2021. (Ben Bogstie/Terrace Standard)
Nature of Tim Hortons fire made it difficult to detect: Deputy fire chief

Fire likely burned undetected inside a wall, resulting in extensive damage

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
O’Toole to vote against Conservative MP’s private bill on ‘sex-selective abortion’

Erin O’Toole said he supports a woman’s right to choose and will personally vote against the private member’s bill

Part of the massive mess left behind in a Spallumcheen rental home owned by Wes Burden, whose tenants bolted from the property in the middle of the night. Burden is now facing a hefty cleaning and repair bill as a result. (Photo submitted)
Tenants disappear in the night leaving Okanagan home trashed with junk, feces

Spallumcheen rental rooms filled with junk, human and animal feces; landlord scared to rent again

Dr. E. Kwok administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a recipient at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to register people ages 40+ for COVID-19 vaccines in April

Appointments are currently being booked for people ages 66 and up

A volunteer disinfects a historical Mohabat Khan mosque ahead of the upcoming Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, in Peshawar, Pakistan, Friday, April 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Muhammad Sajjad)
For Canadian Muslims, second pandemic Ramadan is a time of hope and sadness

Many members of the association are trying to find ways ‘to help people stay connected to one another’

South Surrey farmland, March 2020. The province’s crackdown on secondary residences sparked protests that have the NDP government engaged in a lengthy rewrite of its legislation. (Tracy Holmes/Peace Arch News)
B.C. NDP now wants to keep even ‘non-farmers’ on the land

‘Grandfathering’ of second residences extended again

Photos of Vancouver Canucks players are pictured outside the closed box office of Rogers Arena in downtown Vancouver Thursday, April 8, 2021. The Vancouver Canucks say 25 players and coaches have tested positive during a COVID-19 outbreak that involves a variant of the virus. It is now the biggest reported outbreak in the NHL this season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canucks’ return to practice pushed back as player added to COVID protocol list

COVID outbreak has led to eight games being cancelled

People walk past the Olympic rings in Whistler, B.C., Friday, May 15, 2020. Whistler which is a travel destination for tourists around the world is seeing the effects of travel bans due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Adults living, working in Whistler, B.C., eligible for COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

The move comes as the province deals with a rush of COVID-19 and variant cases in the community

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: RCMP investigating after child, 6, dies at motel in Duncan, B.C.

The BC Coroners Service is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances around the child’s death

Most Read