9/11: 20 years onAmerica Marks 20 Years Since 9/11 Attacks as Biden Searches for Closure

By Anita Powell

Published 10 September 2021

The 9/11 terrorist attacks unfolded in less than two hours, killing 2,996 people. The war in Afghanistan, launched a month after the 9/11 attacks lasted 19 years, 10 months, three weeks and two days, with DOD counting 2.325 American military deaths. On Saturday, 11 September, President Biden will try to draw a line under these events, saying that a new era in American foreign and defense policy has begun. “But we will also see, as we always do, that one era does not end when a new era begins,” notes one historian.

The horrors of September 11, 2001, unfolded in just under 102 minutes. On that day, 2,996 people died in the worst terrorist attack in modern history.

What followed was 19 years, 10 months, three weeks and two days of war in Afghanistan, with the Department of Defense counting at least 2,325 American military deaths. No one knows exactly how many civilians were killed.

On September 11, 2021, President Joe Biden will try to draw a line under those twin tragedies, paying his respects at the three sites, whose fiery suffering set alight America’s longest war.

The Global War on Terror, as it was called, stretched well beyond the small central Asian country of Afghanistan — reaching into Iraq and other corners of the globe as distant as Africa. In Iraq, the conflict killed nearly 4,500 U. S. service members and hundreds of thousands of civilians.

Since the controversial decision to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by the end of August, the Biden administration has made decisive moves to put the last 20 years behind it, by declassifying a trove of documents that may shed light on the events of September 11, and by maintaining a studied distance from the hardline theocratic Taliban government that seized power in Afghanistan as Americans withdrew.

Three Sites
On Saturday, Biden will visit all three sites that lit the spark: New York City, where at 8:46 on that sunny September morning, American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center — and where, 17 minutes later, United Airlines Flight 175 hit the south tower.

He will also visit the Pentagon, where American Airlines Flight 77 crashed 34 minutes later. And separately, he and Vice President Kamala Harris will pay their respects at a lonely field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the final resting place of United Airlines Flight 93.

It is a scripted, almost cinematic close to the past 20 years, said history professor Jeremi Suri of the University of Texas at Austin.

The president is drawing a line under the last 20 years,” he told VOA. “And he’s acting as a historian and saying we’ve ended an era, just like the end of the World War II era, and it’s now time to make new decisions in the ways in which Harry Truman made new decisions after the World War II era.”