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Mourners place flowers and pictures in the name cut-out of Kyung Hee (Casey) Cho at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, on Friday, September 11, 2020, in New York. Americans are commemorating 9/11 as a new national crisis in the form of the coronavirus pandemic reconfigures and divides anniversary ceremonies. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

A large American flag is unfurled at the Pentagon ahead of ceremonies at the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial to honor the 184 people killed in the 2001 terrorist attack on the Pentagon, in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Attendees watch the 19th anniversary observance of the September 11 terror attacks, at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa., on Friday, September 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

A giant American flag is unfurled as the national anthem is plated at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, on Friday, September 11, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Asian Reporter web extra, September 11, 2020

U.S. marks 9/11 anniversary at tributes shadowed by virus

By Michael R. Sisak, Karen Matthews, and Jennifer Peltz

The Associated Press

September 11, 2020

Video link: https://youtu.be/JzcAlC_NMuE

(Sister of 9/11 victim: "Wound is always fresh")

NEW YORK (AP) ó Americans commemorated 9/11 Friday as another national crisis reconfigured memorial ceremonies, dividing some victimsí families over coronavirus safety precautions, and a presidential campaign carved a path through the observances.

In New York, victimsí relatives gathered Friday morning for split-screen remembrances at the World Trade Centerís September 11 memorial plaza and on a nearby corner, set up by separate organizations.

Standing on the plaza, with its serene waterfall pools and groves of trees, Jin Hee Cho said she couldnít erase the memory of the death of her younger sister, Kyung, in the collapse of the trade centerís north tower.

"Itís just hard to delete that in my mind. I understand thereís all this, and I understand now that we have even COVID," said Cho, 55. "But I only feel the loss, the devastating loss of my flesh-and-blood sister."

Around the country, some communities canceled 9/11 ceremonies, while others went ahead, sometimes with modifications. The Pentagonís observance was so restricted that not even victimsí families could attend, though small groups could visit its memorial later in the day.

On an anniversary that fell less than two months before the presidential election, President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden both headed for the Flight 93 National Memorial in the election battleground state of Pennsylvania ó at different times of day. Biden also attended the ceremony at ground zero in New York, exchanging a pandemic-conscious elbow bump with Vice President Mike Pence before the observance began.

In short, the 19th anniversary of the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil was a complicated occasion in a maelstrom of a year, as the U.S. grapples with a pandemic, searches its soul over racial injustice, and prepares to choose a leader to chart a path forward.

Still, families say itís important for the nation to pause and remember the hijacked-plane attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people at the trade center, at the Pentagon outside Washington, and in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, on September 11, 2001 ó shaping American policy, perceptions of safety, and daily life in places from airports to office buildings.

"People could say, ĎOh, 19 years.í But Iíll always be doing something this day. Itís history," said Annemarie DíEmic, who lost her brother Charles Heeran, a stock trader. She went to the alternative ceremony in New York, which kept up the longstanding tradition of in-person readers.

Speaking at the Pennsylvania memorial, Trump recalled how the planeís crew and passengers tried to storm the cockpit as the hijackers as headed for Washington.

"The heroes of Flight 93 are an everlasting reminder that no matter the danger, no matter the threat, no matter the odds, America will always rise up, stand tall, and fight back," the Republican president said.

Biden visited the memorial later Friday, laid a wreath, and greeted relatives of victims including first officer LeRoy Homer. Biden expressed his respect for those aboard Flight 93, saying sacrifices like theirs "mark the character of a country."

"This is a country that never, never, never, never, never, never gives up," he said.

At the September 11 memorial in New York hours earlier, Biden offered condolences to victimsí relatives including Amanda Barreto, 27, and 90-year-old Maria Fisher, empathizing with their loss of loved ones. Bidenís first wife and their daughter died in a car crash, and his son Beau died of brain cancer.

Biden didnít speak at that ceremony, which has a longstanding custom of not allowing politicians to make remarks.

Pence went on to the separate ceremony, organized by the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, where he read the Bibleís 23rd Psalm. His wife, Karen, read a passage from the Book of Ecclesiastes.

"For the families of the lost and friends they left behind, I pray these ancient words will comfort your heart and others," said the vice president, drawing applause from the audience of hundreds.

Formed in honor of a firefighter killed on 9/11, the foundation felt in-person readers were crucial to the ceremonyís emotional impact and could recite names while keeping a safe distance. By contrast, recorded names emanated from speakers placed around the memorial plaza. Leaders said they wanted to keep readers and listeners from clustering at a stage.

As in past years on the plaza, many readers at the alternative ceremony added poignant tributes to their loved onesí character and heroism, urged the nation not to forget the attacks and recounted missed family milestones: "How I wish you could walk me down the aisle in just three weeks," Kaitlyn Strada said of her father, Thomas, a bond broker.

One reader thanked essential workers for helping New York City endure the pandemic, which has killed at least 24,000 people in the city and over 190,000 nationwide. Another reader, Catherine Hernandez, said she became a police officer to honor her familyís loss.

Other victimsí relatives, however, werenít bothered by the switch to a recording at the ground zero ceremony.

"I think it should evolve. It canít just stay the same forever," said Frank Dominguez, who lost his brother, police officer Jerome Dominguez.

The September 11 memorial and the Tunnel to Towers foundation also tussled over the Tribute in Light, a pair of powerful beams that shine into the night sky near the trade center, evoking its fallen twin towers. The 9/11 memorial initially cancelled the display, citing virus safety concerns for the installation crew. After the foundation vowed to put up the lights instead, the memorial changed course with help from its chair, former Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and governor 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 from home.

Associated Press journalists Alexandra Jaffe and Ted Shaffrey in New York, Darlene Superville in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and Mark Scolforo in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, contributed to this report.

 

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