A ceremony was held at NATO Headquarters in Brussels on Friday (11 September 2020) to mark the 19th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, US Permanent Representative to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison, members of the North Atlantic Council, and NATO’s diplomatic and military community took part in the act of remembrance.
Speaking at the Article 5 and 9/11 Memorial at NATO Headquarters, which consists of a twisted piece of the Twin Towers, the Secretary General paid tribute to the nearly 3,000 men and women who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks: “We remember the suffering and the loss, the bravery of those who put their life on the line to save others, and the solidarity that emerged from the wreckage. Just hours after the attack, we invoked for the first time NATO’s collective defence clause, Article 5 of our founding treaty. The attacks were on US soil but we were all hit. We stood with our American Ally and we responded together to terrorism.”
Mr. Stoltenberg recalled that NATO went into Afghanistan after the attacks to ensure that the country could never again become a safe haven for terrorists. He paid tribute to NATO and partner troops, the Afghan security forces, and the people of Afghanistan. The Secretary General underlined that as part of the Afghan peace process, NATO is adjusting its military presence on the ground while at the same time continuing its training mission. On the start of the Afghanistan peace negotiations, Mr. Stoltenberg said: “This is no guarantee for lasting peace but it is an historic opportunity we must all seize. Through Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace talks, Afghans can shape their own future. These talks must preserve the gains made in the last two decades – for women and children, for justice and freedom, and for the safety and security of all.”
To honour the victims of the 9/11 attacks and the sacrifices of service members since, flags flew at half-staff at NATO Headquarters, as well as at Allied Command Operations in Mons, Belgium, and at Allied Command Transformation in Norfolk, Virginia.
The ceremony at NATO Headquarters concluded with a moment of silence at 14:46, the exact minute of the first attack on the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York nineteen years ago.