Remembering a day of infamy, 20 years on

The remaining tower of New York's World Trade Center, Tower 2, dissolves in a cloud of dust and debris about a half hour after the first twin tower collapsed Sept. 11, 2001.
REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine

Emblazoned on a wall of blue tile within the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in Lower Manhattan are the words of the famous Roman poet Virgil: “No day shall erase you from the memory of time.” The quote is surrounded by one tile representing each of the more than 3,000 victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

As a city, we are now 20 years removed from that beautiful-turned-horrific morning — one of the darkest moments in our history, a date that forever altered our city both physically and spiritually.

So much has happened in the past two decades, including the reconstruction of the World Trade Center itself into a modern center of commerce and progress. Those who were children on 9/11 are now adults building their own lives, with some dedicating themselves to public service in honor of those they knew and loved who perished that fateful day.

But for those of us alive to bear witness to that terrible morning, the memories have not faded from the passage of the 7,305 days that followed.

We gather as a city once more this Saturday to pause and remember the 20th anniversary when terrorists struck a shocking blow at the heart of our city — crashing hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center and precipitating their collapse, killing close to 3,000 people in the process.

We gather once more to honor the sacrifices of the more than 350 firefighters, police officers, EMTs and other first responders who ran into the burning Twin Towers to save lives as thousands of people fled from the danger. 

We also gather once more to remember the brave men and women who worked at “Ground Zero” for months on end searching for survivors and remains of victims — and are now dying of illnesses related to their heroic work.

And we do this not only to ensure that we “never forget” 9/11 — but also to live out Virgil’s words that the passage of time won’t ever erase from our consciousness those whom we lost that fateful day.

On Saturday, Sept. 11, thousands of families and survivors of the attacks will participate in the annual memorial ceremony at the 9/11 Memorial. As the victims’ names are read, the ceremony will pause for moments of silence marking the timeline of the tragedy:

  • 8:46 a.m., Hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 crashes into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
  • 9:02 a.m., Hijacked United Airlines Flight 175 crashes into the South Tower of the World Trade Center.
  • 9:37 a.m., Hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 crashes into the Pentagon outside Washington, DC.
  • 9:59 a.m., The South Tower of the World Trade Center collapses.
  • 10:07 a.m., Hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 crashes in Shanksville, PA, after passengers revolted against the terrorists.
  • 10:28 a.m., The North Tower of the World Trade Center collapses.

May the memories of all those murdered on 9/11 live on forever in New York City.

This story appears courtesy of our sister publication amNewYork

More from Around NYC