Champaign 9/11 bell ceremony

Champaign fire Lt. Kevin McAndrew rings a bell during the Champaign Fire and Police departments' annual 9/11 Memorial Ceremony on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019, at West Side Park in Champaign.

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Americans commemorated Sept. 11 with solemn ceremonies and vows Wednesday to “never forget” 18 years after the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil.

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Victims’ relatives assembled at ground zero, where the observance began with a moment of silence and the tolling of bells at 8:46 a.m. EDT — the exact time a hijacked plane slammed into the World Trade Center’s north tower.

“As long as the city will gift us this moment, I will be here,” Margie Miller, who lost her husband, Joel, said at the ceremony, which she attends every year. “I want people to remember.”

After so many years of anniversaries, she has come to know other victims’ relatives and to appreciate being with them.

“There’s smiles in between the tears that say we didn’t do this journey on our own, that we were here for each other,” she said.

Elsewhere around the country, President Donald Trump laid a wreath at the Pentagon, saying: “This is your anniversary of personal and permanent loss.” And Vice President Mike Pence was scheduled to speak at the third crash site, near Shanksville, Pa.

The nation is still grappling with the aftermath of 9/11. The effects are visible from airport security checkpoints to Afghanistan, where the post-9/11 U.S. invasion has become America’s longest war.