Ed Monahan arrived with his son, a bouquet of red roses in his hand, looking for familiar names inscribed on the memorial to the September 11, 2001 attacks. “This is the first time I have been here in 20 years,” he said. dropped the now retired New York firefighter, while mentioning that around 30 of his colleagues were among the 343 firefighters in the megalopolis swept away by the airliner attacks against the World Trade Center towers.

As he ran his hand over the commemorative plaques bordering the gigantic water fountains that now replace the Twin Towers in southern Manhattan, he named a few: “Ray Downey… Chief Downey. It was the patriarch. Responsible for special operations. Joe Angelini. The last guy I spoke to that day, before I left the barracks after my night shift, a few minutes before the impact of the first plane. His son John, also a firefighter, also died. I was one of the lucky guys that day. “

Lucky, but troubled and tortured, like many New Yorkers for 20 years, by this double tragedy that he is just beginning to tame. “When the memories are bad, it’s best to steer clear of them. On September 11, I stayed home to go through it on my own. After two decades, it’s time for me to come back here. To celebrate the life and underline the great work of my departed colleagues. “

The specter of new attacks

Remember to honor the memory of others, in fear however, for the man who came to Long Island Wednesday morning to walk in the footsteps of his past, that such a horror could strike the country again.

“Since September 11, I no longer believe that we can live in safety here. Governments have done it right so far, but with the current administration I’m less sure. It’s a little scary even, what’s coming. Attacks like September 11 can happen again, I believe. “

Twenty years later – and just weeks after the fall of Kabul to the Taliban and the humiliating withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan – the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) also think so.

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Last week, they warned the national security agencies and police forces of the country that such an anniversary could indeed be used by terrorists to justify new attacks, without however having in hand information about the imminence of a threat, or even about its possible origin.

An origin which, two decades after September 11, could also now drink within a country that is increasingly divided – and radicalized – along its political flaws.

“Yes, September 11 is the kind of iconic date for terrorist groups, like those linked to al-Qaeda, who could attempt an equally horrific attack on targeted Western adversaries, whether America or other countries. », Summarizes in an interview with To have to, James Forest, US Counterterrorism and Homeland Security Specialist at the University of Massachusetts. “But since that same September 11, the United States has suffered more terrorist attacks from within (mainly right-wing extremist, racist and nationalist groups) than from abroad. And it is likely to remain the case for the foreseeable future. “

A few days ago, the Capitol police confirmed this reading of the present, alerting American parliamentarians of a possible new attack on the dome of American democracy on September 18 by supporters of Donald Trump. At the call of a former billionaire campaign organizer, hundreds of Americans are preparing to march on Washington to call for the release of the rioters of January 6 arrested and prosecuted by the courts, which they believe to be “political prisoners”.

On January 6, the former reality TV star called on his troops to obstruct the certification of the vote confirming the victory of Joe Biden by the legislative power. The demonstration turned violent, killing five and leading to the arrest of 600 people, several dozen of whom are linked to radical right-wing groups, citizens claiming to be “sovereign” and white supremacists.

Far right and weapons

“The last few years have seen a marked increase in mass shootings, several of which have been committed by individuals espousing far-right ideology,” says Wadie Said, professor of law at the University of South Carolina. “It is difficult to say whether or not this will lead to a mass attack like the one on September 11th. But the prevalence of guns in the United States makes this possibility of a tragedy with many casualties a sort of permanent threat. “

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“Since September 11, many more police officers in the United States have been killed by right-wing extremists than by jihadists,” adds James Forest.

For counterterrorism specialist Joshua Sinai, who teaches at Capitol Technology University in Maryland, further riots in Washington, even if they appear to be taken seriously by the Capitol Police, remain highly unlikely in the new American political landscape. . “These are abnormal circumstances which allowed these riots on January 6, those of a president [Donald Trump] who deliberately prevented federal and local law enforcement and intelligence agencies from jointly apprehending the protest as a matter of “national security”. The demonstrations of September 18 will not be so well tolerated ”, which does not eliminate the terrorist threat in the coming days or weeks, he adds.

Since September 11, many more police officers in the United States have been killed by right-wing extremists than by jihadists

“The ease with which the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan, like the Kabul attacks on the Americans during the evacuation, fuel groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group,” said Mr. Sinai. But if attacks do occur, it will not be on American soil, due to the security measures put in place since September 11. It will probably be in Asia or Europe, where it is easier for these groups to carry out large-scale attacks. “

On Wednesday morning, Tracy Porter, a Virginian in her early thirties, passing through New York for a few days of sightseeing, was also there for the first time at the memorial to the victims of September 11. “It is very pretty and very calming what they did”, she said while philosophizing on the possible repetition of such a drama. “That day, the impossible happened. And from there, we can no longer know what hatred can now expose us to. “

This report was partially funded with support from the Transat International Journalism Fund-The duty.

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