Several D.C.-area leaders marked the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks with solemn speeches Saturday.
The appearances come after President Joe Biden and former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton congregated in New York to pay tribute to the fallen.
They each wore blue ribbons and held their hands over their hearts as a procession marched a flag through the memorial, watched by hundreds of Americans gathered for the remembrance, some carrying photos of loved ones lost in the attacks.
At the Maryland National Guard’s Fallen Warrior Ceremony, Gov. Hogan honored 13 fallen members of the state’s National Guard and the 69 Marylanders who he said were killed on Sept. 11, 2001.
Hogan told the story of Dana and Zoe Falkenberg, two kids from University Park who were traveling with their parents to Australia. They were on American Airlines Flight 77, which hijackers crashed into the Pentagon.
He also recognized an insurance executive from Abington who was visiting his company’s headquarters in the World Trade Center at the time of the attack.
Hogan called 9/11 “the darkest of days” and noted those who lived through the attacks “still feel the shock, the grief, and the anger of that day just as acutely.”
“We are here today to honor all of our fallen heroes,” Hogan said. “To express to their families that their sacrifices were not in vein, and to ensure that they are never forgotten. Twenty years ago, a generation ago, we said that we would never forget, and we have not.”
Sen. Ben Cardin, who also attended the ceremony, recalled being told about the plane that flew into the north tower but not realizing the country was under attack until the second plane crashed.
“That beautiful day turned into one of the darkest days in the history of America, seared in our minds where we were, and seared in our minds our anger and our vulnerability,” Cardin said.
While the number of deaths can be daunting, Cardin said, “each one is a story.”
Watch Hogan and Cardin’s complete remarks in the video below.
Bowser: Reflecting on an ‘unfathomable nightmare’
Speaking outside DC Fire and EMS Engine 16, Mayor Muriel Bowser reflected on the 11 Washingtonians who died on Sept. 11, 2001, thanked the city’s first responders and praised the heroism of the passengers aboard United Flight 93, which was bound for D.C.
In a speech before first responders, council members, faith leaders and DC Public Schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee, Bowser remembered three D.C. students, their three teachers and two members of the National Geographic team who were on American Airlines Flight 77 before it was hijacked and crashed into the Pentagon.
“We continue to send our love and prayers to their families, who that day experienced an unfathomable nightmare,” Bowser said.
Bowser, who hours before her remarks proclaimed the day “September 11, 2001 Day of Remembrance,” also praised the “bravery, sacrifice and heroism of the passengers of United Flight 93.”
“We know that Flight 93 was headed to Washington, D.C.,” Bowser said. “We are certain that the passengers and crew members aboard that flight saved our city and our nation from an even darker day in history.”
Bowser said that since 9/11, D.C. has spent more than $1 billion to prepare for situations that require regional coordination.
“Today, we are a city in a region that is more prepared, more resilient and has more resources ready to address foreign and domestic threats,” she said.
Recognizing the city’s responders, DC Fire and EMS Chief John Donnelly said the job has changed since 9/11. Whereas before the job’s risks were obvious, Donnelly said, there are now other factors that have to be considered.
He said new responders learn about building construction, new equipment and how to tend to their mental health.
“If you were to press [first responders] on what they are, they’d tell you they’re just doing their job,” Donnelly said. “They’d tell you that about 9/11, they’d tell you that about Jan. 6. But the reality is, we all know different.”
Council member Charles Allen, who chairs the city’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, said he hopes “we’ll also not forget the possibility that came out of that tragedy.”
“There was a moment, and there still can be, where we’re able to find ways to come together, solve shared problems, not let differences define us,” Allen said.
Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.