by Zeke Miller and Alexandra Jaffe
NEW YORK (AP) – From an urban monument to a remote region at the heart of the nation’s military prowess, President Joe Biden on Saturday paid tribute to three holy places of mourning and remembrance to honor the lives lost two decades ago at 9 Of. /11 terrorist attacks.
The solemn day of remembrance offered Americans a time-and-again reminder of the times when they united to face an unimaginable tragedy. That fading spirit of 9/11 was invoked most forcefully by the president at the time of the attacks, George W. Bush, who said, “That’s the America I know,” in contrast to the bitterly divided nation Biden now leads. does.
Biden left the speech, paying his respects to the trio outside of New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, where four hijacked planes crashed on September 11, 2001, killing nearly 3,000 people, bolstering the nation’s sense of security and launching. shattered. country in two decades of war.
Standing silently at the site of the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, Biden wiped his tears and saw the ghostly sound of a jet plane under clear blue skies, reminiscing about that fateful day.
In a meadow in Pennsylvania, Biden consoled family members who had gathered on a stone boulder near Shanksville that marked that passengers had brought down a hijacked plane that was bound for the nation’s capital. was going. At the Pentagon, Biden and his wife, Jill, took a moment of silence before placing a wreath studded with white, purple and red flowers in front of a memorial bench marking the victims of the attack at Military Headquarters.
Providing a bud light and praising the Shanksville Volunteer Fire Department, which responded to the crash of United Flight 93, Biden praised Bush’s comments in his only public remarks of the day, saying Republicans had “really good today.” speech—really,” and wondered aloud what those who died that day would think of today’s malice.
Pointing to a cross-shaped monument made of steel from the twin towers adjacent to the firehouse, Biden reflected: “What am I thinking, what will the people who die, what will they be thinking. Will they think it makes sense for us to do this kind of thing where you ride down the street and someone has a sign saying ‘f-so-and-so’?
It was a reference to a clear sign attacking Biden in New Jersey last week as he visited the storm damage displayed by supporters of former President Donald Trump. Biden expressed incredulity at Trump’s recent comments, which he accused of abandoning the ideals of the nation during his time in office.
“Everyone says, ‘Biden, why do you keep insisting on trying to bring the country together?’ “That’s the thing that’s going to affect our well-being more than anything else,” the president told reporters.
Repeatedly defying his presidency’s warnings of the rise of autocracy, he said, “Are we going to demonstrate in the next four, five, six, ten years that democracy can work or not?”
At Ground Zero in New York City, Biden stood shoulder to shoulder with former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton at the National September 11 Memorial as the names of the dead were read out by their loved ones. Each man wore a blue ribbon and placed his hand on his heart as the procession marched a flag through the monument in front of hundreds of people, some taking pictures of loved ones lost in the attacks.
In his keynote address in Shanksville, Bush lamented that “much of our politics has become a naked appeal to anger, fear, and resentment.”
“On the day of America’s trials and tribulations, I saw millions instinctively hold a neighbor’s hand, and rally for one another,” Bush said. “That’s the America I know.”
Referring to domestic turmoil, including the January 6 uprising at the Capitol, Bush said that “threats to our country can come not only from across borders but also from violence.” He said that while they have little cultural resemblance to the 9/11 attackers, “they are children of the same evil spirit, and it is our constant duty to confront them.”
Vice President Kamala Harris also spoke at the Flight 93 National Memorial, echoing the theme of unity she praised for the courage of those passengers and the resilience of Americans who came together in the days following the attacks.
“In times of outright panic, we turned to each other,” Harris said. “If we work hard to work together as Americans, if we stay united in purpose, we will be ready for everything that lies ahead.”
Biden was a US senator when the hijackers commanded four planes and carried out the attacks. He was Obama’s vice president in 2011 when the country celebrated the 10th anniversary of the attacks. Saturday’s commemoration was his first as Commander-in-Chief.
It is now Biden who takes on the responsibility borne by his predecessors to prevent another strike. It should do so against fears of an escalation of terrorism following the hasty US withdrawal from Afghanistan, where the planners of the September 11 attacks were sheltered.
In remarks in the firehouse, Biden defended the withdrawal, which culminated with a massive airlift to evacuate more than 110,000 Americans and allies – but still left many behind for an uncertain future under Taliban rule.
Can al-Qaeda come back? Yes. But guess what, it’s already back in other places,” Biden said. “What’s the strategy? Everywhere where there’s al-Qaeda, we’re going to attack and the soldiers have to stay in? Simone.”
Instead of giving formal remarks, Biden released a taped address about the anniversary late Friday in which he spoke of the “true spirit of national unity” that emerged after the attacks, “in heroism everywhere – Seen in expected and unexpected places.”
“For me this is the central lesson of September 11th,” he said. “Unity is our greatest strength.”
Biden became the fourth president to console the nation on the anniversary of a dark day that has shaped the most consequential domestic and foreign policy decisions made by chief executive officers in the past two decades.
Trump skipped the official 9/11 memorial ceremonies and instead visited a fire station and police compound in New York, where he entered Biden on his return from Afghanistan and repeated lies about the 2020 election as he spoke to New York City. Tribute to first responders.
Bush was reading a book to school children in Florida when the plane crashed into the World Trade Center. He kept that day out of Washington for security reasons – a decision then-Sen. Biden urged them to reconsider, the current president has written — and then delivered a brief, paused speech from the White House that night to a terrified nation.
The terrorist attack would define Bush’s presidency. The following year, he chose Ellis Island as the location to deliver his first anniversary address, the Statue of Liberty, on his shoulder, as he pledged, “What our enemies have begun, we will finish.”
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were even deadlier when Obama visited the Pentagon in 2009 to mark his first September 11 office.
By the time Obama spoke on the 10th anniversary, the mastermind of the attack, Osama bin Laden, was dead, having been killed in a May 2011 Navy SEAL raid. Though the nation remained embroiled abroad, and alert to the dangers, the anniversary became more about healing.
Trump vowed to get America out of Afghanistan, but his words during his first September 11th anniversary celebration in 2017 were a clear warning to terrorists, “telling these brutal killers that there’s no dark corner beyond our reach.” No, there is no sanctuary beyond our understanding, and nowhere to hide on this vast earth.”
Jaffe reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Jill Colvin in New York and Amer Madhani in Wilmington, Delaware contributed to this report.