Maine, a 9/11 footnote, pauses to remember 20th anniversary

September 11, 2021 GMT

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A wreath-laying ceremony in Maine’s largest city was among the events marking the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

The event featuring city officials, firefighters and police officers at Fort Allen Park was followed by a moment of silence Saturday morning.

It was one of many small remembrances in Maine, which has become largely a footnote to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Ringleader Mohamed Atta and accomplice Abdulaziz Alomari flew from Portland International Jetport that day, traveling to Boston where they joined other hijackers and boarded a larger plane, American Airlines Flight 11, one of two jets to crash into New York’s World Trade Center. Other jetliners crashed into the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.

In Portland, a smirking Atta left an impression on former U.S. Airways ticket agent Mike Tuohey, who said he declined to issue boarding passes for Flight 11 to the pair, who arrived just 30 minutes before the flight.

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Tuohey ended a tense discussion with Atta by warning him to get moving if he wanted to catch his flight.

“I said, Mr. Atta, if you don’t get upstairs very quickly, you’re going to miss your flight altogether,” he said.

There’s still no explanation why two of the hijackers flew from Portland. The former Portland police chief, Michael Chitwood, believed they may have traveled to Portland to ensure they weren’t being followed.

Nearly 3,000 people died that day.

Among the Maine victims were retirees Jackie and Robert Norton of Lubec, who were aboard Flight 11; Portland lawyer James Roux, a passenger on United Airlines Flight 175, which hit the South Tower; Stephen Ward, a Gorham native working on the 101st Floor of the North Tower; and Navy Cmdr. Robert Allan Schlegel, a Maine native who died at the Pentagon.