NEW YORK (1010 WINS/AP) — New Yorkers are commemorating the 18th anniversary of 9/11 with mournful ceremonies, volunteering, appeals to "never forget" and rising attention to the terror attacks' extended toll on responders.
The ceremony at the World Trade Center observes the anniversary by remembering and honoring the 2,983 men, women and children killed in the attacks at the World Trade Center site, the Pentagon, aboard Flight 93, and those who died in the February 26, 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
President Donald Trump joined an observance at the Pentagon, laying a wreath, telling victims' relatives there: "This is your anniversary of personal and permanent loss."
"It's the day that has replayed in your memory a thousand times over. The last kiss. The last phone call. The last time hearing those precious words, 'I love you,'" the president said.
Near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the third site where planes crashed on Sept. 11, 2001, Vice President Mike Pence credited the crew and passengers who fought back against the hijackers with protecting him and others in the U.S. Capitol that day.
"I will always believe that I and many others in our nation's capital were able to go home that day and hug our families because of the courage and selflessness of your families," said Pence, who was an Indiana congressman at the time. Officials concluded the attackers had been aiming the plane toward Washington.
Nearly 3,000 people were killed when terrorist-piloted planes slammed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the field in Pennsylvania.
As part of the official 9/11 anniversary ceremony held at the World Trade Center, a moment of silence marking key moments on 9/11 was observed at the following times:
8:46 a.m.: Hijackers deliberately crash American Airlines Flight 11 into floors 93 through 99 of the North Tower (1 WTC).9:03 a.m.: Hijackers deliberately crash United Airlines Flight 175 into floors 77 through 85 of the South Tower (2 WTC).9:37 a.m.: Hijackers deliberately crash American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon, near Washington, D.C.9:59 a.m.: The South Tower (2 WTC) collapses.10:03 a.m.: After learning of the other attacks, passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 launch a counterattack on hijackers aboard their plane to try to seize control of the aircraft. In response, the hijackers crash the plane into an empty field near Shanksville, Pa.10:28 a.m.: The North Tower (1 WTC) collapses. The 16-acre World Trade Center site is in ruins, with collateral damage affecting all adjacent properties and streets. A rescue and recovery effort begins immediately.
This spring, there were six granite slabs installed in the memorial plaza, designed to honor firefighters, police officers and others who died from exposure to toxins after the attacks.
The slabes will remain nameless as there is no finite list of those who died in the aftermath.
The names of the men, women and children killed as a result of the 9/11 attacks have been read aloud at the official 9/11 anniversary ceremony in New York City every year.
Eighteen years after the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil, the nation is still grappling with the aftermath at ground zero, in Congress and beyond. The attacks' aftermath is visible from airport security checkpoints to Afghanistan. A rocket exploded at the U.S. embassy as the anniversary began in Afghanistan, where a post-9/11 invasion has become America's longest war.
"People say, 'Why do you stand here, year after year?'" Chundera Epps, a sister of Sept. 11 victim Christopher Epps, said at last year's ceremony at the World Trade Center. "Because soldiers are still dying for our freedom. First responders are still dying and being ill."
"We can't forget. Life won't let us forget," she added.
The anniversary ceremonies center on remembering the nearly 3,000 people killed when hijacked planes rammed into the trade center, the Pentagon and a field near Shanksville on Sept. 11, 2001. All those victims' names are read aloud at the ground zero ceremony, where moments of silence and tolling bells mark the moments when the aircraft crashed and the trade center's twin towers fell.
But there has been growing awareness in recent years of the suffering of another group of people tied to the tragedy: firefighters, police and others who died or fell ill after exposure to the wreckage and the toxins unleashed in it.
While research continues into whether those illnesses are tied to 9/11 toxins, a victims compensation fund for people with potentially Sept. 11-related health problems has awarded more than $5.5 billion so far. Over 51,000 people have applied.
After years of legislative gridlock, dwindling money in the fund and fervent activism by ailing first responders and their advocates, Congress this summer made sure the fund won't run dry . Trump, a Republican and a New Yorker who was in the city on 9/11, signed the measure in July.
The sick gained new recognition this year at the memorial plaza at ground zero, where the new 9/11 Memorial Glade was dedicated this spring.
The tribute features six large stacks of granite inlaid with salvaged trade center steel, with a dedication "to those whose actions in our time of need led to their injury, sickness, and death." No one is named specifically.
Some 9/11 memorials elsewhere already included sickened rescue, recovery and cleanup workers, and there is a remembrance wall entirely focused on them in Nesconset, on Long Island. But those who fell ill or were injured, and their families, say having a tribute at ground zero carries special significance.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon announced Monday that its 9/11 memorial will close next week for electrical and lighting work. The project, expected to take until late May, includes repairs to lighting glitches in the shallow reflecting pools under the memorial benches.
Sept. 11 is known not only as a day for remembrance and patriotism, but also as a day of service. People around the country continue to volunteer at food banks, schools, home-building projects, park cleanups and other charitable endeavors on and near the anniversary.