Americans on Tuesday marked the 17th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that killed almost 3,000 people in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania.
President Donald Trump attended a ceremony at the 9/11 memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, near where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed after 40 passengers and crew members retook control of the plane from al-Qaida-affiliated hijackers.
“Your tears are not shed alone, for they are shared grief with an entire nation,” Trump told an audience of family members of Flight 93 passengers and first responders. “We grieve together for every mother and father, sister and brother, son and daughter who was stolen from us at the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and here, in this Pennsylvania field."
‘“Flight 93 crashed yards from where we stand, just 20 minutes flying time from the United States capital. Through their sacrifice, the 40 saved the lives of countless Americans, and they saved our capital from a devastating strike,” Trump said. “This field is now a monument to American defiance. This memorial is now a message to the world, America will never ever submit to tyranny. Thank you.”
Just outside Washington, Vice President Mike Pence and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis attended a ceremony at the Pentagon for families of those killed when a hijacked plane crashed into the building.
“To the families of the fallen, gathered here and all those looking on, the cherished final moments you shared with your loved ones no doubt seems like just yesterday -- a goodbye kiss, a tender embrace, or one last wave. Just know that your nation understands, that while we all suffered loss that day, we know you bear a special burden. But we gather here in the shadow of the building where your loved ones departed this life to say that you do not bear that burden alone,” Pence said.
And in New York, hundreds of survivors and family members of those killed gathered at Ground Zero, where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center stood before two hijacked commercial flights brought them down. The names of the victims were read out loud during a solemn ceremony.
The hijackings were carried out by 19 men affiliated with al-Qaida. The deadliest attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor in 1941, the events of Sept. 11 permanently changed America's perception of security and prompted then-President George W. Bush to declare war on terrorism and invade Afghanistan.
Almost two decades later, the anniversary remains a painful reminder for the families of those who died.
Mary Fetchet's son Brad was working in the South Tower of the World Trade Center when the first plane hit.
"My son called my husband to let him know he was okay, and just to remind him that he was in the second tower," Fetchet told VOA.
After her husband called her at work to tell her Brad was alive, Fetchet walked into an adjoining building. As she entered the room, she saw the second plane hitting the other tower on television.
"Of course I was hoping, trying to calculate where he was in the building, and if he had in fact had time between the time he called my husband to be below the line where the plane entered the building," Fetchet said.
Fetchet went home after that, hoping for a call from her son that never came. Near the end of September, she held a memorial for Brad.
In the wake of the attacks, Fetchet organized groups of survivors and the families who lost loved ones.
"I pretty immediately realized that the families who'd lived around the country and in 90 countries abroad had challenges in accessing information. And many decisions were being made that impacted them directly," Fetchet said.
The realization led her to create the charity Voices of September 11th, which provides services to families affected by the tragedy, such as sponsoring support groups and helping identify the remains of loved ones. The organization has also expanded to provide services to communities impacted by violence around the world.
"We've learned so much over the last 17 years," Fetchet said. "There seems to be no end to the acts of terrorism and mass violence both here in the United States and abroad."
In Photos: September 11 Attacks Anniversary