Bidens, former presidents mark 9/11 anniversary

President Biden and first lady Jill Biden attended a ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks at ground zero in New York City on Saturday.

They were joined by other former presidents and elected officials, including former Presidents Obama and Clinton, former Secretary of State and first lady Hillary Clinton, former first lady Michelle Obama and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (D). After Biden arrived at the ceremony, he was spotted talking briefly with Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Several other government and current and former elected officials, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D), New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D), New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), FBI Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Merrick Garland, attended the ceremony, according to the White House.

The solemn ceremony at the National September 11th Memorial began with an honor guard representing the New York City police and fire departments and the Port Authority Police Department.

Families of people who died in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001, are reading the names of the 2,977 people who died over the course of the emotional ceremony, which began at 8:40 a.m. Saturday morning. The ceremony also remembers the six people who died in the Feb. 26, 1993, World Trade Center bombing.

The attendees observed moments of silence at 8:46 a.m., the time the first plane hit the north tower of the World Trade Center; at 9:03 a.m., when the second plane hit the south tower; at 9:37 a.m., when the plane struck the Pentagon; at 9:59 a.m., the time of the fall of the south tower on Sept. 11, 2001; at 10:03 a.m., when Flight 93 crashed in an empty field near Shanksville, Pa.; and at 10:28 a.m., the time of the fall of the north tower on Sept. 11, 2001. Bruce Springsteen played “I’ll See You in My Dreams” following the second moment of silence just after 9 a.m.

The president and first lady left the memorial just before 10 a.m. to travel to Shanksville to participate in a wreath-laying ceremony commemorating those who died on Flight 93 at the memorial site there. Biden and the first lady also made a stop at the Shanksville Volunteer Fire Department. 

Biden later returned to Washington, D.C., to participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Pentagon.

Biden spoke speak briefly to reporters during his stop at the firehouse, commending the Flight 93 passengers for their “genuine heroism” and reflecting on the difficulty of the day for those who lost loves ones.

“These memorials are really important,” Biden said. “But they’re also incredibly difficult for the people affected by them, because it brings back the moment they got the phone call, it brings back the instant they got the news, no matter how years go by.”

Biden was not scheduled to deliver formal remarks Saturday but released a video statement on Friday recognizing the lives lost in the deadliest attack in U.S. history, which took place 20 years ago, and calling for national unity.

Vice President Harris delivered remarks at the Flight 93 Memorial near Shanksville later Saturday morning during which she recognized the heroism and courage of the 40 passengers and crew members aboard the flight and called on Americans to honor them by uniting together.

“In a matter of minutes, in the most dire of circumstances, the 40 responded as one. They fought for their own lives and to save the lives of countless others at our nation’s capital,” Harris said.

“After today, it is my hope and prayer that we continue to honor their courage, their conviction with our own, that we honor their unity by strengthening our common bonds, by strengthening our global partnerships and by always living out our highest ideals,” Harris continued. “This work will not be easy, it never has been, and it will take all of us believing in who we are as a nation, and it will take all of us going forth to work together.”

George W. Bush, who was president at the time of the 9/11 terror attacks, also delivered a speech during which he honored those lost and spoke of the strength of Americans in the wake of the tragedy 20 years ago.

“Facing an impossible circumstance, they comforted their loved ones by phone, braced each other for action and defeated the designs of evil,” Bush said of the passengers and crew members aboard United Airlines Flight 93. “These Americans were brave, strong and united in ways that shocked the terrorists but shouldn’t surprise any of us. This is the nation we know.”

Bush also took a moment during his speech to warn of the dangers of domestic terrorism following the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters. Without explicitly mentioning the attack, Bush said there is “little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home” but that both exhibit “disdain for pluralism” and “disregard for human life.”

“In their determination to defile national symbols, they are children of the same foul spirit and it is our continuing duty to confront them,” Bush said.

Biden later praised Bush for his speech in his comments to reporters. 

Other officials, such as Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, participated in a Saturday morning ceremony at the Pentagon and recognized the sacrifice of service members who fought in the war in Afghanistan that was precipitated by the 9/11 attacks. They recognized the 13 U.S. service members recently killed in a terrorist bombing at Kabul airport amid the U.S. withdrawal and evacuation effort.

“As Secretary of Defense and a veteran of the Afghan war, let me underscore again how much we owe to all those who fought and to all those who fell while serving our country in Afghanistan,” Austin said in remarks. “As the years march on, we must ensure that all our fellow Americans know and understand what happened here on 9/11 and in Manhattan and in Shanksville, Pa. It is our responsibility to remember, and it is our duty to defend democracy.”

Former President Trump, who released a two-minute video Saturday morning marking Sept. 11 that mostly criticized Biden’s withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, did not attend attend any of the ceremonies. He briefly spoke to police officers in New York City and is expected to provide commentary at a boxing match later Saturday.

Updated: 5:14 p.m.

Tags 9/11 20th anniversary Barack Obama Bill Clinton Bill de Blasio Charles Schumer Christopher Wray Chuck Schumer Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Jill Biden Joe Biden Kathy Hochul Lloyd Austin Mark Milley Merrick Garland Michael Bloomberg Michelle Obama Nancy Pelosi
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