The American people and their leaders solemnly commemorated Wednesday the loss of roughly 3,000 lives 18 years ago when terrorist hijackers struck the financial and political capitals of the U.S.
The U.S. held remembrance ceremonies on the anniversary of the tragedies in New York City, Pennsylvania and just outside of the nation’s capital at the Pentagon in northern Virginia.
Speaking at the Pentagon after laying a wreath to commemorate the 184 victims who died there, President Donald Trump told victims’ relatives “this is your anniversary of personal and painful loss,” recalling the anniversary is “the day that has replayed in your memory a thousand times over” before striking a defiant tone.
Following collapsed peace talks that would have seen the U.S. withdraw forces from Afghanistan where it has been engaged in its longest-running war, Trump vowed to hit the Taliban “harder” than ever before after an attack claimed by the group last week killed a dozen people, including a U.S. service member.
“If for any reason they come back to our country, we will go wherever they are and use powers the likes of which the United States has never used before, and I’m not even talking about nuclear power,” Trump said. “They will never see anything like what will happen to them.”
Slain al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden claimed responsibility for the Sept. 11, 2001 coordinated attacks on New York’s Twin Towers as well as the attack that day on the Pentagon.
The attacks were carried out using three passenger planes hijacked by al-Qaeda operatives. A fourth plane, bound for either the White House or the Capitol, crashed in a field in Pennsylvania after passengers attempted to retake it from the hijackers.
Nearly 3,000 people were killed, including citizens of 77 countries, on that day. Hundreds more first responders have died in the nearly two decades since from illnesses they developed while trying to save lives in the smokey and dust-filled ruins of the attacks, particularly in New York City where thick plumes of dark ash filled the air.
Countless other victims were sickened, some fatally, by the debris.
In New York City, bagpipes sounded and bells tolled as the names of each of the roughly 2,600 victims was read aloud at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.
Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to attend a commemoration ceremony near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into a field as passengers attempted to wrest control of the plane from the hijackers.