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 100 Mile Performing Arts Society’s Elves include (from left): Melissa Hermiston, Vincent Collins, Sandy Gallagher and Courtney Driver, front. (Photo submitted)
100 Mile Performing Arts Society elves spread Christmas cheer

Performers in costume will take funny photos around the area until Christmas.

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
81 new cases of COVID-19 detected in Interior Health Friday

One additional staff member at Kelowna long-term care home tests positive, no new deaths

A Good Samaritan helps me pull my car out of the ditch on Horse Lake Road. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Saved from the ditch by Good Samaritans

A journalist never likes making the news.

A dream catcher with 91 ties of tobacco was placed over a fire. The ties represent the 91 years St. Joseph’s Mission operated as a residential school. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
Tl’etinqox women find strength at former B.C. Interior residential school site

Healing ceremony part of video project to honour legacy of residential schools

(Photo submitted)
Embrace Winter aims to make season ‘extra special’

Celebrating winter the Nordic way is coming to the South Cariboo this season.

A snow moon rises over Mt. Cheam in Chilliwack on Feb. 8, 2020. Friday, Dec. 11, 2020 is Mountain Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Dec. 6 to 12

Mountain Day, Dewey Decimal System Day and Lard Day are all coming up this week

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)
First Nations Leadership Council demands justice for victims of B.C. social worker

Union of BC Indian Chiefs calls actions of Robert Saunders ‘nothing short of complete depravity’

Demonstrators, organized by the Public Fishery Alliance, outside the downtown Vancouver offices of Fisheries and Oceans Canada July 6 demand the marking of all hatchery chinook to allow for a sustainable public fishery while wild stocks recover. (Public Fishery Alliance Facebook photo)
Angry B.C. anglers see petition tabled in House of Commons

Salmon fishers demand better access to the healthy stocks in the public fishery

(Hotel Zed/Flytographer)
B.C. hotel grants couple 18 years of free stays after making baby on Valentines Day

Hotel Zed has announced a Kelowna couple has received free Valentines Day stays for next 18 years

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Farmers raise slogans during a protest on a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border, India, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected the diplomatic scolding Canada’s envoy to India received on Friday for his recent comments in support of protesting Indian farmers. Tens of thousands of farmers have descended upon the borders of New Delhi to protest new farming laws that they say will open them to corporate exploitation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Manish Swarup
Trudeau brushes off India’s criticism for standing with farmers in anti-Modi protests

The High Commission of India in Ottawa had no comment when contacted Friday

Montreal Alouettes’ Michael Sam is set to make his pro football debut as he warms up before the first half of a CFL game against the Ottawa Redblacks in Ottawa on Friday, Aug. 7, 2015. Sam became the first publicly gay player to be drafted in the NFL. He signed with the Montreal Alouettes after being released by St. Louis, but abruptly left after playing one game. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Study finds Canada a ‘laggard’ on homophobia in sports

Among females, 44 per cent of Canadians who’ve come out to teammates reported being victimized

Nurse Kath Olmstead prepares a shot as the world’s biggest study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway Monday, July 27, 2020, in Binghamton, N.Y. U.S. biotech firm Moderna says its vaccine is showing signs of producing lasting immunity to COVID-19, and that it will have as many as many as 125 million doses available by the end of March. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Hans Pennink
Canada orders more COVID vaccines, refines advice on first doses as cases reach 400K

Canada recorded its 300,000th case of COVID-19 on Nov. 16

Apartments are seen lit up in downtown Vancouver as people are encouraged to stay home during the global COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. British Columbia’s deputy provincial health officer says provincewide data show the most important area B.C. must tackle in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic is health inequity. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
Age, income among top factors affecting well-being during pandemic, B.C. survey shows

Among respondents earning $20,000 a year or less, more than 41 per cent reported concern about food insecurity

Most Read