Donald Trump’s failed Taliban talks bring controversy
Jorge L. Ortiz
Published 7:12 AM EDT Sep 10, 2019
The toll in human lives lost from the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, extends beyond the nearly 3,000 people killed as a direct result of the assault.
That reality will be acknowledged Wednesday as part of remembrance ceremonies on the 18th anniversary of the deadliest terrorist acts ever on American soil.
Tributes will be held, among other places, at the memorial plaza at the World Trade Center site in New York City, in the Washington, D.C., area, and near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, on the field where United Flight 93 crashed after passengers and crew members foiled hijackers’ plot to slam the plane into the U.S. Capitol.
The somber, nonpartisan commemorations have been touched by controversy this year after President Donald Trump announced he had planned to have secret meetings Sunday with leaders of the Taliban, the militant Afghan group that supported 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden.
Those talks, to be held at Camp David, were scrapped after the Taliban claimed responsibility for a Thursday suicide bombing in Kabul that killed 12 people, including an American serviceman.
The plans to invite a terrorist organization to the historic retreat, just days ahead of the Sept. 11 anniversary, drew swift condemnation, even from some members of Trump’s Republican Party.
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Politics aside, this year’s memorial in New York – where more than 2,600 people died after two hijacked planed smashed into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers – will feature the now-traditional reading of their names.
Events start with an 8:40 a.m. EDT ceremony hosted by the 9/11 Memorial & Museum that can be watched on 911memorial.org/live – the function itself is only open to victims’ relatives – and it will include moments of silence at the time of the four flight impacts and when each of the towers collapsed.
At sunset, expected around 7:12 p.m. local time, the yearly Tribute in Light will come on, with parallel beams shooting into the sky to represent the fallen skyscrapers.
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A less shiny yet still meaningful homage has been added this year, when granite slabs were installed at the memorial plaza in recognition of the countless people killed or sickened by toxins from the World Trade Center wreckage.
Known as the 9/11 Memorial Glade, the stone pieces jut from the ground along a tree-lined pathway and, according to the signs, are dedicated “to those whose actions in our time of need led to injury, sickness, and death.’’ Those include the first responders and others who provided aid after the plane crashes at all three sites.
The Twin Towers’ collapse produced thick dust clouds, and fires burned for months in the rubble. Many rescue and recovery workers later developed respiratory and digestive system ailments potentially linked to inhaled and swallowed dust. Some were diagnosed with other illnesses, including cancer.
Research continues into whether those illnesses are tied to 9/11 toxins, with researchers in a 2018 study finding a higher incidence of deaths from brain cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and certain other diseases among rescue and recovery workers, as well as an unusual number of suicides.
Joanna Reisman, whose firefighter husband died of brain cancer three years after searching through the WTC debris for remains, said the new addition should not detract from any acknowledgment of the pain endured by the relatives of the initial victims.
“We just have to recognize that there were others, too,’’ Reisman said.
Victims at the Pentagon
Like New York, the Washington area holds an event for families of 9/11 victims. The focus of the yearly remembrances hosted by the Pentagon Memorial are the 184 people who died when American Flight 77 smashed into the Pentagon building in Arlington County, Virginia, killing all on board and 125 people on the ground.
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The Pentagon Memorial itself, composed of 184 benches with the names of each of the victims inscribed, is free and usually open 24 hours a day. The one exception is Wednesday, when it will be closed to the public from 5 a.m. to 11 a.m. for a private ceremony. A 24-minute audio tour is available.
Other commemorative events around Washington include a moment of silence at 9:37 a.m. – the time when the plane struck – at Arlington National Cemetery and the 9/11 Promise Run, a multi-day relay that starts at the Pentagon Memorial and is scheduled to end Wednesday at Ground Zero. This year, there’s also a biking expedition to Shanksville.
Heroes in Pennsylvania
A few miles north of that tiny southwestern Pennsylvania town, organizers and supporters will hold a morning observance at the Flight 93 Memorial Plaza, part of a national park dedicated to the victims.
They are widely remembered as heroes – their bravery depicted in the 2006 TV movie “Flight 93” – for preventing the hijackers from accomplishing their goal.
After the names of the 40 passengers and crew members who died are read out loud and bells are rung in remembrance, a wreath will be laid at the Wall of Names.
Visitors are invited.
Contributing: The Associated Press