US marks 20th anniversary of 9/11

By Fernando Alfonso III, Adrienne Vogt and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 4:23 p.m. ET, September 11, 2021
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8:51 a.m. ET, September 11, 2021

Biden attends 9/11 memorial service in lower Manhattan


President Biden and first lady Jill Biden were joined by former President Barack Obama and Bill Clinton this morning in lower Manhattan for the commemoration ceremony at the National September 11th Memorial.

Biden will then travel to Queens before leaving for Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

8:46 a.m. ET, September 11, 2021

"9/11 is still killing," Sept. 11 first responder and survivor advocate says

People are still dying because of Sept. 11-related health issues — and they continue to fight to get recognition — according to first responder and survivor advocate John Feal.

"We gave hope to a broken city 20 years ago, and we're paying for it with our lives. And the first 20 years were hard on us. The next 20 years are going to decimate the 9/11 responder community. And I pray that our federal government evolves us with, as we evolve for the worse," Feal told CNN.

Feal worked at the Ground Zero site for over five days and was injured there, he said. He never wore a mask or respirator because no one ever told workers to do so, he said.

"We worked, there we ate there, we slept, there we cried there, we went to the bathroom there. The absorption through the nose, mouth and skin; we were there 24/7, these men and women, uniformed and non-uniformed, never thought while they were searching and cleaning up lower Manhattan, that their city, state and local governments would lie to them," Feal said.

"9/11 is still killing," he said.

"And now, these men and women are paying the ultimate price, and while they left Ground Zero, part of them remained there, but then they went home and died, because they were lied to, and they were never properly taken care of. Nobody ever apologized to us," Feal added.

Some context: As of Aug. 2021, the Sept. 11 Victims Compensation Fund has received claims from individuals in every US state, as well as Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and 31 foreign countries. More than 40,000 individuals have received awards totaling more than $8.95 billion in compensation.

Since its re-opening in 2011, the VCF has received more than 67,000 total eligibility claims.

"We had to fight and keep going back and forth to DC, to get health care, and then compensation, to the same people that lied to us. This is hard to wrap around 20 years later. You know, today, I'm going to remain vigilant and pay respect to those who lost a loved one. But tomorrow, we're back to advocating," Feal said.

8:33 a.m. ET, September 11, 2021

Some families of 9/11 victims are still looking for answers in court 20 years later

From CNN's Zachary B. Wolf

A person touches an inscribed name at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum ahead of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Friday, Sept. 10, 2021, in New York. 
A person touches an inscribed name at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum ahead of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Friday, Sept. 10, 2021, in New York.  (Matt Rourke/AP)

The US government and its NATO allies invaded Afghanistan almost immediately after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, seeking accountability from al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden for murdering nearly 3,000 people. It began what would become a two-decade military odyssey in nation-building that ended messily last month when Americans handed control of Afghanistan back to the Taliban.

But the family members of 9/11 victims are still pursuing accountability from another country — Saudi Arabia — as well as seeking more information hidden by the US government in US courts.

Secrecy has fueled theories. The kingdom has denied any involvement, and the US long ago decided that Saudi Arabia, its strategic partner in the Middle East, had no role in the attacks — though 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudi citizens. So had bin Laden been, although he had been expelled from the kingdom and his citizenship revoked.

Suspicion of Saudi Arabia has persisted, however, and the dogged efforts of 9/11 families over the past two decades have forced the US, bit by bit, to share early leads that tied the hijackers to Saudi officials but were shrouded in secrecy and hidden from public view as classified information.

Persistence has yielded results. More details on those investigations could be forthcoming as a lawsuit against Saudi Arabia proceeds in court.

That lawsuit exists only because, after a years-long campaign by the 9/11 families, Congress passed a special law in 2016 allowing individuals to sue governments for terror attacks.

President Joe Biden has tried to keep a campaign promise to release FBI information related to 9/11 investigations by ordering a review of information at the bureau. A group of 9/11 families had asked him to stay away from Ground Zero unless the documents were released.

Read the full story here.

8:28 a.m. ET, September 11, 2021

Daughter says identification of mom's remains from 9/11 attacks has been an "emotional roller coaster"

Nykiah Morgan.
Nykiah Morgan. (CNN)

Twenty years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Dorothy Morgan's remains were officially identified by DNA testing.

Morgan, of Hempstead, New York, was working as an insurance broker in the North Tower on Sept. 11. She became the 1,646th victim who died in the World Trade Center that day to be identified.

Her daughter described the experience to CNN's Anderson Cooper on Thursday:

"Oh my goodness, it has been an emotional roller coaster. First you have somewhat of a calm and then you get news like this, and then it's all over again. You're in shock. ... you're crying. It is just all over the place. All over the place," Nykiah Morgan said.

She told Cooper that it took her "years" to finally accept that her mother was killed that day.

She would tell herself: "My mom was out there. She was out there, maybe had amnesia and then was released from the hospital. I had a whole story in my head. And she was out there living life, happy."

Morgan said she has never been to the World Trade Center site, and will go for the first time today to read out her mother's name.

"This is the time to honor my mother and to say her name aloud. So I'm going to do it," she said.  

She said that she's having trouble processing her feelings at this time.

"What's making me deal with it is having to go through the process of obtaining the remains ... [and] I have not begun that process, because I feel like that is what makes it real," she said.

"Especially now dealing with the 20th anniversary and having to deal with that as well, I think I've got to put that off because of that. It would be final for me, and I don't know if I'm ready for that," she added.

The remains of more than 1,100 victims — about 40% of those who died there — have not been identified, according to the New York City medical examiner's office.


8:25 a.m. ET, September 11, 2021

Former Yankees and Mets managers describe how baseball helped nation heal after 9/11

Joe Torre (left) and Bobby Valentine.
Joe Torre (left) and Bobby Valentine. (CNN)

The New York Yankees and Mets will face each other tonight at Citi Field as Major League Baseball commemorates the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Former Mets manager Bobby Valentine will throw the first ceremonial pitch to former Yankees manager Joe Torre.

On CNN's "New Day" Friday, Torre and Valentine recounted how the teams helped bring New Yorkers and the nation together after the attacks.

Torre said some members of his team visited St. Vincent's Hospital, where firefighters were suffering from smoke inhalation, and the New York City Armory, where families were waiting for any DNA results from missing family members.

"I think that's where we realize when we did go in, that baseball had a job to do, because we had to get in the way of their feelings," Torre said.

The Mets were the first MLB team to play in New York after the attacks.

"Everyone made a conscious decision to play games in New York," Valentine said.  

The Mets were trailing the Atlanta Braves in the eighth inning, but Mike Piazza came to the plate and smashed a home run for the Mets.

The sounds of fans shouting with "elation and joy was miraculous," Valentine said, adding that it signaled a message that "we're here and we're back."

Before the Yankees played in New York, they had a game in Chicago, and White Sox fans were holding signs written with messages of "We Love New York," Torre said.

Torre said the way baseball brought people together after 9/11 is a lesson that should be remembered today:

"New York gets a bad rap. They're cold. They don't have time for anybody else. Everybody's in a hurry. But when things happen, they look to embrace you. They open up their arms and their homes to you. And doesn't matter politically, everybody's working together. And I think it's just a reminder of how we are United States. And I'd like to have hopefully, you know, people keep that in mind."  


8:12 a.m. ET, September 11, 2021

Man walks over 500 miles across 6 states to honor firefighter brother and others who died on 9/11

One step at a time, Frank Siller is paying tribute to his firefighter brother and all those who died in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Siller, the chairman and CEO of the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, walked over 500 miles across six states in six weeks.

His brother, Stephen Siller, was a New York City firefighter who finished up his shift in Brooklyn and was returning home when he heard a plane crashed into the World Trade Center. He grabbed his 60 pounds of gear and walked through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel into Manhattan. He was one of the more than 300 firefighters to die that day.

"Walking is very therapeutic," Frank Siller told CNN's Jason Carroll. "...I didn't know how many miles it was, and I didn't care. But I knew it was the right thing to do." 

On Aug. 1, Siller began walking from the Pentagon. On Thursday, Siller made it back to his home borough of Staten Island. He will finish up his journey of the "Never Forget Walk" today at the site of the Twin Towers in New York City.

He said the walk has been very emotional for him. "Many times I've broken down and cried privately," he said.

Siller said that even when he encountered inclement weather, he thought of his brother.

"He liked to bust chops. So whatever he threw my way, I laughed. I said, 'Steven, I know what you're doing. I know what you're doing,'" he said.


8:05 a.m. ET, September 11, 2021

How the 9/11 terror attacks unfolded in New York City, DC and Pennsylvania 

(Amy Sancetta/AP)
(Amy Sancetta/AP)

Nineteen men hijacked four fuel-loaded US commercial airplanes bound for west coast destinations on Sept. 11, 2001. 

A total of 2,977 people were killed in New York City, Washington, DC and outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Of those who perished during the initial attacks and the subsequent collapses of the Towers, 343 were New York City firefighters, 23 were New York City police officers and 37 were officers at the Port Authority.

Near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, 40 passengers and crew members aboard United Airlines Flight 93 died when the plane crashed into a field. It is believed that the hijackers crashed the plane in that location, rather than their unknown target, after the passengers and crew attempted to retake control of the flight deck.

Here's a timeline of how the events unfolded that day:

  • 8:46 am ET - American Airlines Flight 11 (traveling from Boston to Los Angeles) strikes the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.
  • 9:03 am ET - United Airlines Flight 175 (traveling from Boston to Los Angeles) strikes the South Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.
  • 9:17 am ET - The Federal Aviation Administration shuts down all New York City area airports.
  • 9:30 am ET - Then-President Bush, speaking in Sarasota, Florida, says the country has suffered an "apparent terrorist attack."
  • 9:37 am ET - American Airlines Flight 77 (traveling from Dulles, Virginia, to Los Angeles) strikes the Pentagon Building in Washington.
  • 9:59 am ET - South Tower of WTC collapses in approximately 10 seconds.
  • 10:03 am ET - United Airlines Flight 93 (traveling from Newark, New Jersey, to San Francisco) crashes in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
  • 10:28 am ET - North Tower of WTC collapses. The time between the first attack and the collapse of both World Trade Center Towers is 102 minutes.

See a full chronology of events here.

8:00 a.m. ET, September 11, 2021

White House previews Biden's 9/11 remembrance video and details why he won't speak today

From CNN's Jasmine Wright

White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a briefing at the White House on September 10.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a briefing at the White House on September 10. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said President Biden will not speak on Sept. 11 because he “felt it was important to visit,” the three remembrance sites in in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Instead, the White House will release a video of Biden to commemorate the 20th year in advance of his trip.

“The President felt it was important to visit each of these three sites to commemorate the lives lost, the sacrifices made, on a day that has impacted millions of people across the country but certainly many people in those communities. In order to do that, he's attending a ceremony were up several other former presidents and prominent officials are going to be hearing the names of the those lives that were lost around that period of time,” Psaki said, remarking that there won’t be a lengthy speaking period.

“Then he's going to be laying wreaths to commemorate the lives and honor those whose lives were lost. We're releasing the video today because we want you to hear from him and he wants the American people to hear from him directly on what 9/11 means to him 20 years later.”

Psaki would not read out what calls Biden has made in the lead-up to 9/11 or how he’s prepared his remarks.

Earlier, Psaki said Biden would convey in the video, “the importance of unity,” and how he first learned of the attack.

7:54 a.m. ET, September 11, 2021

Biden and former Presidents Obama, Clinton and Bush to travel to sites of 9/11 attacks

From CNN's DJ Judd

President Joe Biden pauses as he speaks from the White House on September 9.
President Joe Biden pauses as he speaks from the White House on September 9. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

President Biden and first lady Jill Biden will travel to all three sites of the 9/11 terrorist attacks today, marking the 20th anniversary of the deadly day, according to the White House.

The President and first lady will visit New York City, Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia.

Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff will travel to Shanksville, the site of the United Flight 93 crash, for a separate event, before joining the President and first lady at the Pentagon.

Former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama will attend the remembrance ceremony in New York, an Obama spokesperson tells CNN.

Former President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush will also travel to Shanksville. The George W. Bush Presidential Center announced the 43rd President would deliver keynote remarks in a ceremony open to the families of those killed on United Flight 93 and invited guests.

Former president Bill Clinton and former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton will attend the 9/11 remembrance ceremony in New York City on Saturday, according to each Clinton's spokesperson.

CNN's Dan Merica contributed to this post.