This Saturday marks the 20th anniversary of the most infamous attack on United States soil in our country’s history. On September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four commercial aircraft with the intention of flying them into iconic American buildings.
The first plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan at 8:46 a.m. Just 17 minutes later, a second plane flew into the South Tower. The third plane crashed into the west side of the Pentagon, and a fourth crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, brought down before it could hit its intended target by passengers who fought back.
Both the Twin Towers in NYC fell, and the resulting rescue effort saw firefighters and police officers from across the country rush to help search the often-toxic debris.
In the end, the Sept. 11 attacks claimed the lives of 2,977 victims, while 340 firefighters and 72 law enforcement officers lost their lives. More than 6,000 people were injured, and more than 3,000 children were left without a parent. It stands as the deadliest terrorist attack in human history.
Since 2002, the United States has honored the memory of this day and its lasting impact. Patriots Day is a lasting memorial to the victims, their families and those brave Americans who stepped up to the call to help; who answered hate with love and hope.
The two-decade mark feels especially humbling and sobering. Today’s youth no longer remember the shock and pain of that day as a lived experience, but learn about it as history. Those moments shaped the decades to come not only for our country but for the world.
If you’re looking for a way to connect with the weight of the moment, to honor those lives lost and those that continue to be affected, you’re not alone. Here are a few means to memorialize the Sept. 11 attacks from anywhere in the country and the world.
Watch President Biden’s Visit to Ground Zero
President Biden and the First Lady will travel to all three sites of the attack on Saturday, beginning with an appearance at the Ground Zero commemorative event that morning. The event begins at 8:30 am ET, and Former President George W. Bush, who served during the attack, will give a keynote address. Victims’ families will read the names of their loved ones who lost their lives, and at sundown, the Tribute in Light will illuminate the sky. Most major networks will be covering the event. See Deadline for a full coverage breakdown.
Salute the Tribute in Light in NYC
If you’re in New York City, the annual Tribute in Light should be visible from just about anywhere, weather conditions permitting. The commemorative public art installation, which casts two towers of silver light up into the sky where the Twin Towers used to stand, was first presented six months after the attack. It’s not illuminated every year on Sept. 11. Learn more via the 9/11 memorial website. Check the New York Times for more day-of memorial events throughout the five boroughs.
Visit 9/11 Memorials Across the Country
If you’re not in NYC, there are still ways to pay your respects in person. Besides a variety of local engagements planned across the country, there are a handful of national memorials spread across this country that help tell the full story of that fateful day. The Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, PA., is a beautiful tribute to the brave passengers who gave their lives to foil the terrorists’ plot. The Reflect 9/11 Memorial Sculpture in Rosemead, CA., offers those on the west coast a picturesque place to remember. Likewise, the sculpture titled To Struggle Against World Terrorism in Bayonne, NJ., is breathtaking. Check a full list via The Smithsonian for more.
Explore the StoryCorps’ Sept. 11 Initiative Archives
Launched in 2005 in partnership with the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, this initiative collects stories of the lives lost during the 9/11 attacks, as well as previous bombing of the World Trade Center on Feb. 26, 1993. The recordings have now been added to the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, and StoryCorps received a Peabody Award for the effort in 2012. Listen to the stories via the StoryCorps website.
Observe a Moment of Silence at 8:46 a.m. ET
Join the thousands of Americans attending the Ground Zero commemoration event in observing a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. ET, marking the moment American Airlines Flight 11 struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center. More moments of silence will be observed during the event, honoring each moment of violence during the day.
Read and Contribute to the Digital Remembrance Wall
The National September 11 Memorial & Museum offers a variety of ways to get involved in the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, including this digital Remembrance Wall wherein people affected by the tragedy from all across the country can share their stories, condolences and lessons learned.
Share a #RememberTheSky Photo to Socials
Another initiative of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, #RememberTheSky asks everyone to share a photo of the sky wherever they stand, sharing to socials with the #RememberTheSky hashtag. The shared art experience is inspired by how clear and blue the sky was that day over NYC and the country at large, as well as American artist Spencer Finch’s “Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky on That September Morning” installation, which is comprised of 2,983 watercolors, each a unique shade of blue.
Donate to the Never Forget Fund
If you’d like to help support the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, you can donate to the institution today and any day via the Never Forget Fund.
Photography by: Gary Hershorn / Getty