Americans are commemorating 9/11 with mournful ceremonies, volunteering, appeals to "never forget," and rising attention to the terror attacks' extended toll on responders. A crowd of victims' relatives is expected at Ground Zero on Wednesday, while President Trump is scheduled to join an observance at the Pentagon, per the AP. Vice President Mike Pence is to speak at the third attack site, near Shanksville, Pa. Former President George W. Bush, the commander in chief at the time of the 2001 attacks, is due at an afternoon wreath-laying at the Pentagon. Eighteen years after the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil, the nation is still grappling with the aftermath at Ground Zero, in Congress, and beyond. The attacks' aftermath is visible from airport security checkpoints to Afghanistan.
The anniversary ceremonies center on remembering the nearly 3,000 people killed when hijacked planes rammed into the trade center, the Pentagon, and a field near Shanksville on Sept. 11, 2001. But there has also been growing awareness in recent years of the suffering of another group of people tied to the tragedy: firefighters, police, and others who died or fell ill after exposure to the wreckage and the toxins unleashed in it. A victims compensation fund for people with potentially Sept. 11-related health problems has awarded more than $5.5 billion so far. "People say, 'Why do you stand here, year after year?'" Chundera Epps, a sister of Sept. 11 victim Christopher Epps, said at last year's ceremony at the World Trade Center. "Because soldiers are still dying for our freedom. First responders are still dying and being ill. We can't forget. Life won't let us forget." (Read more 9/11 anniversary stories.)