Last Updated: Sat Sep 03, 2011 17:45 pm (KSA) 14:45 pm (GMT)

9/11 a decade on: a time of reflection for the US, and the world

10th anniversary of the terror attacks that killed 2,977 people. (Illustration by Farwa Rizwan)
10th anniversary of the terror attacks that killed 2,977 people. (Illustration by Farwa Rizwan)

Current weather forecasts for New York are for a possible rainy start to the 9/11 weekend.

But for those who remember the morning of September 11, 2001, inclement weather might come as a welcome antidote to flashbacks of the glorious blue skies that brightened the city on a day that was about to become one of the nation’s darkest.

Whatever the weather, the 10th anniversary of the terror attacks that killed 2,977 will be a time of national and international reflection.

In New York, Washington and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, somber ceremonies will mark the sites where the four hijacked planes brought fiery deaths to so many.

At the World Trade Center site, there will be moments of silence to signal the times of impact of each plane: at 8:46 a.m, 9.03 a.m., 9.37 a.m. and 10.03 a.m.

Additional silences will be observed at 9.59 a.m. and 10.28 a.m, when the South and North Towers fell.

Families will read out the names of the victims, including the six who died in the 1993 attack on the towers. And when darkness falls, two beams of light will shine overnight as symbols of the fallen buildings.

Two new 9/11 memorials will open, too.

The National 9/11 Memorial, with waterfalls pouring into the footprints of the towers and with the names of the dead listed around the pools, will be shown to the families on the day of the anniversary and will open to the public on September 12.

In Shanksville, officials will dedicate the Flight 93 National Memorial, built to honor the hijacked passengers whose plane crashed into an open field there after they struggled with the hijackers.

The reading of names and the light beams will be familiar from earlier anniversary ceremonies. But the bustling construction site that the families see will be vastly different from the vacant pit in which they gathered the first year after the attacks.

After years of controversy over what, and even whether, to rebuild on the site, One World Trade Center has risen to become the tallest building in Lower Manhattan, at 961 feet above street level.

Below ground, work continues on the seven-story deep 9/11 Museum, due to open on the next 9/11 anniversary, in 2012.

The surrounding neighborhood on the southern tip of Manhattan is resurrecting itself, too. In spite of predictions that businesses and residents would desert what was seen as a toxic wasteland, downtown Manhattan has become a vibrant urban hotspot that no longer shuts down when Wall Street does.

Sunday, September 11 – an official national Day of Remembrance known as Patriot Day since December 2001 – will be a time to look back over a decade but also to look forward.

In the 10 years since the attacks, the world has changed immeasurably.

American-led forces ousted the Taliban government in Afghanistan and ended Saddam Hussein’s reign in Iraq. The ongoing wars recalibrated global geopolitics, with nations like Turkey and Pakistan taking on new strategic roles.

Travelers who once breezed through airport metal detectors have become accustomed to removing shoes, belts and liquids before boarding their flights.

Americans, largely isolated from the specter of terror attacks before 2001, have been forced to adapt to now-familiar subway searches, patdowns, security cameras and other erosions of cherished civil liberties.

What 9/11 has meant for the American mind-set a decade on could be glimpsed in the public celebrations that erupted in cities throughout the country late on the night of May 1, when President Barack Obama announced that American commandos had found and killed Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.

Ceremonies marking the 10th anniversary might resurrect some of the post-attack trauma they felt a decade ago, but for most the pain will pass quickly, said Gary Alan Fine, a sociology professor at Chicago’s Northwestern University and an expert on collective memory.

“It will be sort of a psychic moment to take stock of where we are and where we’re going,” Fine said. “In a sense it will be a bookend, almost a moment of closure.”

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