NEW YORK - In a stunning display of symbolism, a rainbow appeared over New York City on the 22nd anniversary of September 11.
Several photos have surfaced on social media showing the colorful arc spanning over Manhattan and Ground Zero.
Americans looked back Monday on 9/11 with moments of silence, tearful words and appeals to teach younger generations about the terror attacks 22 years ago.
President Joe Biden, speaking at a military base in Anchorage, Alaska, urged Americans to rally around protecting democracy. His visit, en route to Washington from a trip to India and Vietnam, is a reminder that the impact of 9/11 was felt in every corner of the nation, however remote.
"We know that on this day, every American’s heart was wounded," Biden said. "Yet every big city, small town, suburb, rural town, tribal community — American hands went up, ready to help where they could."
Nearly 3,000 people were killed when hijacked planes crashed into the trade center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field, in an attack that reshaped American foreign policy and domestic fears.
At ground zero, Vice President Kamala Harris joined other dignitaries at the ceremony on the National Sept. 11 Memorial plaza. Instead of remarks from political figures, the event features victims reading the names of the dead and delivering brief personal messages.
Some included patriotic declarations about American values and thanked first responders and the military. One lauded the Navy SEALs who killed al-Qaida leader and 9/11 plotter Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011. Another appealed for peace and justice. One acknowledged the many lives lost in the post-9/11 "War on Terror." And many shared reflections on missing loved ones.
"Though we never met, I am honored to carry your name and legacy with me," said Manuel João DaMota Jr., who was born after his father and namesake died.
Biden, a Democrat, became the first president to commemorate Sept. 11 in the western U.S. He and his predecessors have gone to one or another of the attack sites in most years, though Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Barack Obama each marked the anniversary on the White House lawn at times, and Obama also visited Fort Meade in Maryland.
Warning of a rise in extremism and political violence, Biden told service members and their families that that "every generation has to fight" to preserve U.S. democracy.
"That’s why the terrorists targeted us in the first place – our freedom, our openness, our institutions. They failed. But we must remain vigilant," he said.
First lady Jill Biden laid a wreath at the 9/11 memorial at the Pentagon, where a giant American flag hung over the side of the building. Earlier, bells tolled, and musicians played taps at 9:37 a.m., the time when one of the hijacked jets hit the military headquarters.
Many Americans did volunteer work on what Congress has designated both Patriot Day and a National Day of Service and Remembrance. Others gathered for anniversary events at memorials, firehouses, city halls, campuses and elsewhere.
In Iowa, a march set off at 9:11 a.m. Monday from suburban Waukee to the state Capitol in Des Moines. In Columbus, Indiana, observances include a remembrance message sent to police, fire and EMS radios. New Jersey’s Monmouth County, which was home to some 9/11 victims, this year made Sept. 11 a holiday for county employees so they could attend commemorations.
Pepperdine University’s campus in Malibu, California, displayed one American flag for each victim, plus the flags of every other country that lost a citizen on 9/11. Reflecting the tragedy's scope, U.N. General Assembly President Dennis Francis exhorted world nations Monday to counter extremism, build tolerance, "join hands and say never again."
Fenton, Missouri, is more than 650 miles (1,050 kilometers) from the attack sites. But the St. Louis suburb, population 4,000, holds an anniversary ceremony at a memorial that includes steel from the World Trade Center’s fallen twin towers and a plaque honoring Jessica Leigh Sachs, a 9/11 victim with relatives in town.
"We’re just a little bitty community," Mayor Joe Maurath said ahead of the anniversary, but "it’s important for us to continue to remember these events. Not just 9/11, but all of the events that make us free."
The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.