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 property at 113 and 161 Island Highway is currently being dismantled as the developer attempts to salvage ‘usable’ lumber for their development application to the City of Parksville. (Mandy Moraes photo)
Development application delayed for high-profile Parksville property

Council refers application to staff for further improvements

(File photo)
RCMP warn of counterfeit bill use in Parksville Qualicum Beach area

Police have received four calls in December regarding bogus bills

The COVID-19 pandemic had an effect on film production on central and north Vancouver Island, says Vancouver Island North Film Commission. Pictured here, production of TV series Resident Alien in Ladysmith earlier this year. (Black Press file)
Film commissioner says COVID-19 cost central Island $6 million in economic activity

Jurassic World: Dominion, Chesapeake Shores among productions halted due to pandemic, says INFilm

Dr. Sandra Allison is Island Health’s medical health officer for the central Island. (Photo submitted)
OPINION: Don’t let fear take over during the pandemic

Central Island medical health officer shares her reflections riding the bus

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry update the COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 887 new cases

Another 13 deaths, ties the highest three days ago

After twice have their wedding plans altered due to COVID-19 restrictions, Suzanne Schmidt and Andrew Sturgess got married in Bakerview Park last weekend, with the only guests being their two daughters, Zoey (foreground) and Tessa. (Darren Ripka photo)
From New Zealand to Bakerview Park, Surrey couple weds in ‘backyard’

Twice scaled-down wedding ‘proof that good things still happen during bad times’

Police in Nanaimo are looking for a suspect who wore a black-and-white striped hoodie and rode a yellow mountain bike when he allegedly stole three children’s backpacks from a daycare facility. (Photo submitted)
VIDEO: Thief steals children’s backpacks from daycare in Nanaimo

Suspect rode a yellow mountain bike and made off with backpacks hanging on fence

Arthur Topham has been sentenced to one month of house arrest and three years of probation after breaching the terms of his probation. Topham was convicted of promoting hate against Jewish people in 2015. (Photo submitted)
Quesnel man convicted for anti-Semitic website sentenced to house arrest for probation breach

Arthur Topham was convicted of breaching probation following his 2017 sentence for promoting hatred

Langley School District's board office. (Langley Advance Times files)
‘Sick Out’ aims to pressure B.C. schools over masks, class sizes

Parents from Langley and Surrey are worried about COVID safety in classrooms

The Klahoose First Nation village on Cortes Island is under lockdown until further notice due to a positive COVID-19 test. Photo courtesy Kevin Peacey.
Cortes Island First Nation community locked down due to positive COVID-19 test

Klahoose First Nation has had one positive test, one other potential case

Ladysmith’s 1st Avenue will be lit up until January 15. (Cole Schisler photo)
Light Up parade a no-go, but Ladysmith’s streets are still all aglow

Although the tradition Light Up this year was cancelled, folks can still enjoy the holiday lights

The baby boy born to Gillian and Dave McIntosh of Abbotsford was released from hospital on Wednesday (Nov. 25) while Gillian continues to fight for her life after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
B.C. mom with COVID-19 still fighting for life while newborn baby now at home

Son was delivered Nov. 10 while Gillian McIntosh was in an induced coma

Most Read