9/11 Changed North Carolina. Here’s How North Carolina is Remembering the 20th Anniversary.

A woman walks past thousands of flags placed to honor of the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in Charlotte in 2015. North Carolina will commemorate the 20th anniversary of Sept. 11 this weekend with dozens of events across the state. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

By Michael McElroy

September 9, 2021

From Wilmington to Banner Elk and Fayetteville, North Carolina will commemorate the day with dozens of events across the state. Find one near you.

Twenty years since the world changed.

On Saturday, the US will observe the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and while every moment of silence or memorial event since has sought to honor those lost, this year carries extra weight. 

The time itself is a burden.

Memories fade, or shift, as Dan Barry wrote this week in The New York Times. Grief mutates and endures. Love survives.

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But, twenty years is a generation’s worth of distance. The freshman going about their first semesters at UNC, Wake Forest or North Carolina Central, for instance, were not yet born on Sept. 11, 2001.

They’ve never known a world before the attack, and it can be hard for the rest of us to remember it.

Though the violence left physical scars in Lower Manhattan, the Pentagon and a field in Shanksville, Pa., NC shares the collective wounds.

And NC has a few direct losses from that day. 

  • American Airlines Flight 11, which took off from Boston en route to Los Angeles, hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m. At 8:19 a.m., Betty Ong, a flight attendant on board, called the American Airlines Reservation office in Cary to tell them what happened.  It was the first account given of the hijacking. 

An operations specialist in the office, Nydia Gonzalez, spoke to Ong for a few minutes, relaying her account to emergency officials on another line. The brief conversation helped officials to understand what was happening, and why they could no longer make contact with the pilots.

It was a crucial link of information and a last human connection for the people on board.

  • Sandraw W. Bradshaw of Greensboro, was a flight attendant on United Flight 93, which crashed upside down into a field in Pennsylvania instead of the US Capitol or the White House, where investigators believe it was heading. 

Because Flight 93 took off late, passengers heard about the other attacks and, as has been widely reported, rushed the cockpit.

According to Bradshaw’s husband, she called him and told him what was happening. She was boiling water to throw on the hijackers, she told him. 

  • The two other NC natives killed in the attacks were in the Navy and died at the Pentagon. 

Christopher Lee Burford, 23, an electronics technician, was from Hubert, N.C.

Lt. Cmdr. Eric Allen Cranford, 32, a fighter pilot, was from Drexel, N.C.

The repercussions of that day were felt in so many ways in the two decades since. It changed our privacy laws, our politics, and our foreign policy. It changed the immigrant experience. It fed Islamophobia. And North Carolina, which ranks fourth in the nation in active duty military personnel with more than 116,000 troops, has sent more than its fair share to subsequent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So we will remember in North Carolina, even if we’re not old enough to remember. Numerous towns, cities, and villages in the state will commemorate the 20th anniversary Saturday with local events.

Here is an incomplete listing: 

Friday, Sept. 10:

  • 9th Annual 9/11 Tribute Climb – Table Rock, NC, 9/10-9/12
  • 9/11 20th Memorial Service, 11 am-12pm, Tony Rand Student Center, Fayetteville

Sept. 11:

  • The Raleigh Parks Service is seeking volunteers for several “day of service” events the city is holding on Saturday to honor the anniversary. 
  • Durham’s Emergency Responders 9/11 Ceremony, 8:30 to 10 AM, CCB Plaza, Durham 
  • UNC 9/11 Memorial Run and Stair Climb, 7 AM, Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill
  • Wake Forest Fire Department Ceremony, 8:30 a.m, First Station #1, Wake Forest
  • Garner 9/11 20th Anniversary Event, 9 a.m., Garner Town Hall
  • Chatham County Memorial, 10 AM to 12 PM, 129 Sanford Road, Pittsboro
  • NC State’s “Art of Remembrance,” 7 p.m., Stewart Theater, 2610 Cates Avenue, Raleigh
  • Banner Elk Fire Rescue 9/11 Memorial Run, 7:45 – 11:00 AM, Tate-Evans Park, 210 Park Ave, Banner Elk
  • 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb, 7 – 9 AM, Davie County Recreation and Parks, 151 Southwood Dr, Mocksville
  • 20th Anniversary 9/11 Dinner, 6 – 8:30 PM, High Point Country Club, 800 Country Club Dr, High Point
  • Where Were You – September 11th Memorial Event, 7:30 PM, Festival Park, 335 Ray Ave, Fayetteville
  • WFD 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony, 1 – 1:30 PM, 3403 Park Ave, Wilmington
  • Charlotte’s Memorial Event, 2 – 6 PM, Veterans Memorial Park, 2136 Central Ave, Charlotte
  • Robeson County 9/11 Remembrance Walk, 8:30 AM – 12:00 PM, Lumberton Downtown Plaza, 201-299 N Chestnut St, Lumberton, NC
  • 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb, 7 AM – 2 PM, Segra Stadium, 460 Hay St, Fayetteville
  • VFW 20th Anniversary Remembrance Service, 8:30 – 9:00 AM, VFW Post 7383, 4116, 522 Reedy Creek Rd, Cary
  • “Never Forget” 20th Anniversary of 9/11, 8 AM, Yadkin Cultural Arts Center, 226 E Main St, Yadkinville
  • The Art of Remembrance: Commemorating the 20th, 7 – 8:30 PM, 210 Jensen Dr, Raleigh
  • NTB Fire and Rescue 911 Memorial Stair Climb, 12 – 4 PM, 2000 New River Inlet Rd, North Topsail Beach
  • City of Havelock 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony, 12 – 1 PM, 2 Governmental Ave, Havelock
  • 9-11 Memorial Dedication, 3 PM, S Scales St, Reidsville
  • OCS: Patriot Day-9/11/01 Remembrance Night, 10 AM, Orange County Speedway, 9740 NC-57, Rougemont
  • Patriots Day (9/11) Observance, 8 – 10 AM, Lejeune Memorial Gardens, 109 Montford Landing Rd, Jacksonville
  • 9/11 20th Anniversary Memorial Cruise, 11:30 AM, Chestnut Square Park, Indian Trail
  • 20th Anniversary 9/11 Remembrance Service, 9:30 – 11 AM, Fourth of July Park, 702 W Mountain St, Kernersville
  • 9/11 Elks Memorial 5k, 12:30 – 2 PM, 290 Country Club Cir, Southern Pines
  • Brevard Fire Department 9/11 20th Anniversary Memorial, 8 AM, Brevard City Hall, Brevard
  • Holly Springs 9/11 Ceremony, 9 AM, Holly Springs Fire Station 1, 700 Flint Point Ln, Holly Springs
  • 9/11 Memorial Bootcamp, 12 – 1 PM, 2435 Cumberland Ave, Charlotte
  • 20th Anniversary Commemoration, 9:11 AM, Ronald Wilson Reagan High School, 3750 Transou Rd, Pfafftown
  • 9-11 Commemoration Ceremony, 12 PM, Cherokee County Courthouse, 75 Peachtree St, Murphy
  • September 11, 2001, 10 AM – 2 PM, Gaston County Public Library, 1555 E Garrison Blvd, Gastonia
  • St. James 9/11 Ceremony, 10 AM, St. James Community Center, 4136 Southport-Supply Rd SE, St James
  • 9/11 Remembrance, 8:30 AM, Veterans of Foreign Wars – Joe Wagner Post 7313, 219 West St, Pittsboro
  • 20th Anniversary 9/11 Memorial Ceremony, 8:30 AM – 12PM, Forest City Pavilion On Park Square (POPS), 153 Park Sq, Forest City

Sept. 12

  • 9/11 Memorial Service, Sun, 10:55 AM, Mount Vernon Baptist Church, 145 Mt Vernon Church Rd, Olin
  • Honoring Our Frontline Workers & 9/11 Remembrance, 11 AM, Wesley Memorial United Methodist, 1225 Chestnut Dr, High Point
  • 9/11 Memorial Service, 10 AM, Gibsonville United Methodist Church, 501 Church St, Gibsonville


  • Michael McElroy

    Michael McElroy is Cardinal & Pine's political correspondent. He is an adjunct instructor at UNC-Chapel Hill's Hussman School of Journalism and Media, and a former editor at The New York Times.

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