America marks the 20th anniversary of 9/11 Saturday with solemn ceremonies given added poignancy by the recent chaotic withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and return to power of the Taliban.
Heart-wrenching commemorations will unfold at each of the three sites where 19 Al-Qaeda hijackers — mostly from Saudi Arabia — crashed packed airliners, striking the cultural, financial and political hearts of the United States and changing the world forever.
The memorials come with US troops finally gone from Afghanistan, but national discord — and for President Joe Biden, political peril — are overshadowing any sense of closure.
In a video posted on the eve of the anniversary, Biden urged Americans to show unity, “our greatest strength.”
“To me, that’s the central lesson of September 11th. It’s that at our most vulnerable, in the push and pull of all that makes us human, in the battle for the soul of America, unity is our greatest strength,” Biden said in a six- minute message from the White House.
t New York’s Ground Zero, where two pools of water now stand where the Twin Towers used to, relatives will read out the names of the nearly 3,000 people killed, in a four-hour-long service starting at 8:30 am (1230 GMT).
Six moments of silence will be observed, corresponding with the times the two World Trade Center towers were struck, and fell, and the moments the Pentagon was attacked and Flight 93 crashed.
Monica Iken-Murphy, who lost her 37-year-old husband Michael Iken in the World Trade Center, says this will be a “heightened” anniversary for many Americans.
But for her, as for many other survivors, the pain has never wavered.
“I feel like it just happened,” she told AFP.
A whole generation has grown up since the morning of September 11, 2001.
In the interim, Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden has been hunted down and killed. A towering new sky scraper has risen over Manhattan, replacing the Twin Towers. And less than two weeks ago, the last US soldiers flew from Kabul airport, ending the so-called “forever war.”
But the Taliban who once sheltered bin Laden are back ruling Afghanistan, the mighty US military humiliated. In Guantanamo Bay, accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other men continue to await trial, nine years after charges were filed.
Even the full story of how the attack came to happen remains secret. Only last week did Biden order the release of classified documents from the FBI investigation over the next six months.
– ‘Honor and memorialize’ -At Ground Zero, 2,753 people, from all over the world, were killed in the initial explosions, jumped to their deaths, or simply vanished in the inferno of the collapsing towers.
At the Pentagon, an airliner tore a fiery hole in the side of the superpower’s military nerve center, killing 184 people in the plane and on the ground.
And in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the third wave of hijackers crashed into a field after passengers fought back, sending United 93 down before reaching its intended target — likely the US Capitol building in Washington.
Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will stop at each of these places on Saturday to “honor and memorialize the lives lost,” the White House said.
In his video address Friday night, Biden urged Americans to come together as they reflect on the tragedy.
“Unity doesn’t mean we have to believe the same thing, but we must have a fundamental respect and faith in each other and in this nation,” Biden said.
The president had planned for this to be a pivotal day in his nearly eight-month-old presidency.
However, instead of presiding over a moment of unity, Biden will traverse a country angry about the messy Kabul evacuation, which included 13 US soldiers killed by a suicide bomber, and stung by the broader realization of failure and defeat.
For the relatives of victims, the anniversary, as always, is about keeping the memory of their loved ones alive.
“It’s like Pearl Harbor,” said Frank Siller, whose firefighter brother Stephen died at the World Trade Center.
“People who weren’t alive don’t have the same feeling about it as those who were alive. But America has never forgotten about Pearl Harbour and America will never forget about 9/11.”
Lai Mohammed insists no proof protesters were killed at Lekki tollgate
Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has said there is no proof that any protester was killed at the Lekki tollgate in Lagos in October 2020 during the #EndSARS protest.
Some soldiers on October 20, 2020 were said to have opened fire on protesters in an attempt to disperse them allegedly leading to the death of many.
Mohammed, who addressed a press conference in Abuja on Wednesday, described the 2020 event at the tollgate as a “phantom massacre”.
“Today marks the first anniversary of the phantom massacre at Lekki tollgate in Lagos, which was the culmination of an otherwise peaceful protest that was later hijacked by hoodlums,” the minister said.
The minister also said, “At earlier press conferences, I had called the reported massacre at the tollgate the first massacre in the world without blood or bodies.
“One year later, and despite ample opportunities for the families of those allegedly killed and those alleging a massacre to present evidence, there has been none: No bodies, no families, no convincing evidence, nothing. Where are the families of those who were reportedly killed at the toll gate? Did they show up at the Judicial Panel of Inquiry? If not, why?”
Adebanjo leads Afenifere chieftains on visit to Tinubu
Chief Ayo Adebanjo, leader of Pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, has led other chieftains of the body on a visit to national leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, at his home in Lagos.
Others on the visit are Chief Supo Sonibare, Oba Olaitan Oladipo, and retired Assistant Inspector General of Police, Tunji Alapini.
The visit came a few days after Tinubu returned from a medical trip to the United Kingdom where he underwent knee surgery.
The Punch reported that the last time Tinubu and Adebanjo met was in April when the former Afenifere spokesman, Yinka Odumakin, died.
Prior to the visit, Adebanjo had told PUNCH Online interview programme, The Roundtable, that the reason why Tinubu had been silent on the herdsmen crisis was that he felt President Muhammadu Buhari would make him his successor.
In another interview with SUNDAY PUNCH, Adebanjo stated that Buhari won’t hand over power to Tinubu, adding that they were both deceiving each other.
He said, “I have said it openly before and I would say it again that Buhari is deceiving Tinubu and Tinubu is deceiving Buhari. I’m an old man and I’m a funeral candidate already, so quote me. If Tinubu contests the primary in APC today, he will fail.”
Adebanjo then advised Tinubu and other APC members from the South-West to leave the party in the interest of Yorubaland.
He said, “I have always told them, from Tinubu downwards, that it’s better they save themselves speedily. I’m talking to all of them, that in the interest of Yorubaland and the country, they should get out of the carcass they call APC. I made a public pronouncement that they were a conglomeration of incompatibles. It’s on record. I said it then and I’m still saying it now; if they don’t save themselves early enough, then they are ready for a disaster.”
Kaduna gives civil servants 12-day ultimatum on COVID vaccine
The Kaduna State Government has given all civil servants in the state 12 days to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or be barred from office.
The ultimatum was announced in a statement issued on Tuesday by Muyiwa Adekeye, spokesman for the state governor, Nasir el-Rufai.
According to him, all civil servants are expected to be vaccinated by October 31, after which they would be denied entry into government offices if they failed to comply with the directive.
“The Kaduna State Government will from 31st October 2021 require compliance with COVID-19 protocols, especially facemasks and vaccination, for access to its offices,” the statement said.
“The Ministry of Health has since commenced the vaccination of all civil servants, and this is expected to be completed by 31st October 2021. All civil servants are required to be vaccinated by that date.
“Visitors to government offices will need to present their vaccination cards. Given the limited supply of vaccines that are currently available, visitors that have not yet been vaccinated will, in the interim, be permitted entry upon presentation of evidence of registration with the state Ministry of Health for the purpose of vaccination, while wearing their facemasks.”
Adekeye said the decision was taken following a review by the Kaduna COVID-19 task force, and urged residents to ensure strict adherence to the protocol for preventing the spread of infections.
According to the statement, Amina Mohammed-Baloni, Kaduna commissioner for health, has also asked residents to register at the nearest primary health centres for vaccination “so that the relevant authorities can easily contact them as more Covid-19 vaccines become available”.
The development comes weeks after Edo began its ‘no vaccination, no entry’ campaign, which bars unvaccinated civil servants from entering government offices.
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