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This day that age: Events that shook the world

Published: 11th September 2013 12:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th September 2013 11:31 AM   |  A+A-

Sep11

September 11, 2001 - New York City, Arlington County, Virginia

Twelve years on, Americans come together where the World Trade Center soared, where the Pentagon stands as a fortress once breached, where United Airlines Flight 93 knifed into the earth.

They will gather to pray in cathedrals in the greatest cities and to lay roses before fire stations in the smallest towns, to remember in countless ways the anniversary of the most devastating terrorist attacks since the nation's founding, and in the process mark the milestone as history itself.

As in earlier observances, bells will toll again to mourn the loss of those killed in the attacks. Americans will lay eyes on new memorials in lower Manhattan, rural Pennsylvania and elsewhere, concrete symbols of the resolve to remember and rebuild.

But much of the weight of this year's ceremonies lies in what will largely go unspoken - the anniversary's role in prompting Americans to consider how the attacks changed them and the larger world and the continuing struggle to understand 9/11's place in the lore of the nation.

A new assessment, dated Thursday, said that intelligence agencies remain concerned that al-Qaida and its affiliates are committed to carrying out attacks on Western targets. But it said there was no information pointing to any known plot. The bulletin made no mention of Syria, even as President Barack Obama sought congressional approval to use military force against the Syrian government.

Also see: 9/11 seen through newspapers' front pages

Four Americans were killed in an attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on last year's anniversary. Three others were killed and more than 260 others were injured when two men set off bombs near the finish line of the popular Boston Marathon in April. There was no specific or credible intelligence about those attacks, either.

The terror threat to the U.S. is different than it was 12 years ago. In 2001, there was credible intelligence about a terror plot, but that information wasn't shared with the right people. Today, the threat is more diffuse. Cyberattacks threaten to disrupt major U.S. operations in the government and the private sector. Lone actors represent another threat — one or two people who are not directly affiliated with al-Qaida but who subscribe to the terror group's ideology and want to strike out because they disagree with U.S. policies.

Today, officials are concerned about retaliatory strikes if Obama moves forward with plans to use military force against Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime, which the administration condemns for the death of 1,429 in a chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21 near Damascus. Assad's government blames the episode on rebels who have been seeking to overthrow his government. Iraqi officials and militant groups have said that Iranian-backed Shiite militias are threatening to retaliate against American interests inside Iraq if the U.S. goes ahead with strikes, as Tehran is a close ally of Assad.

An interactive map showing terror attacks post September 11, 2001.