Three presidents and their wives stood somberly side by side at the National September 11 Memorial, sharing a moment of silence to mark the anniversary of the nation’s worst terror attack with a display of unity.
President Joe Biden, former Presidents Barack Obama, and Bill Clinton gathered at the spot where the World Trade Center towers collapsed two decades ago. Each wore blue ribbons, and they held their hands up to their hearts while a procession marched through the memorial. Hundreds of Americans watched, many with photos taken of their loved ones who were killed in the attack.
A jet flew over the memorial in an unsettling echo of the attacks just before the event started. Mr. Biden glanced toward the sky.
A senator, Mr. Biden was present when four hijackers took control of the planes and launched an attack. Now he marks the 9/11 anniversary for the first time as commander in chief. The president paid his respects to the three sites at which the planes collided, but left speech-making for others.
Instead, the White House released a taped address late Friday in which Mr. Biden spoke of the “true sense of national unity” that emerged after the attacks, seen in “heroism everywhere – in places expected and unexpected.”
“To me that’s the central lesson of September 11,” he said. Unity is our greatest strength. “
After the New York City morning ceremony, Vice President Joe Biden visited Shanksville in Pennsylvania where a plane crashed from the skies after its passengers bravely fought terrorists. Finally, he made his way to the Pentagon where the most powerful military in the world was dealt a devastating blow.
Former President George W. Bush, who was reading a book to Florida schoolchildren when the planes slammed into the World Trade Center, paid his respects in Shanksville. He said September 11 showed that Americans can come together despite their differences.
“So much of our politics has become a naked appeal to anger, fear and resentment,” said the president who was in office on 9/11. On America’s Day of Trial and Grief, I witnessed millions instinctively reach out to their neighbors and rallied for the common cause. This is America’s knowledge. “
” It is our truest self. It’s what we are and can become again. “
Former President Donald Trump, meanwhile, skipped the official 9/11 memorial ceremonies and instead visited a fire station and police precinct in New York.
Mr. Like his predecessors, Biden had to commemorate the occasion with both grief and determination. Biden, a man who’s suffered a lot of personal loss, speaks with great power about the impact of loss.
He gave voice to the pain that comes with memories of 9/11 in his video message, saying, “No matter how much time has passed, these commemorations bring everything painfully back as if you just got the news a few seconds ago. “
On the 20th anniversary of the attacks, Mr. Biden now shoulders the responsibility borne by his predecessors to prevent future tragedy, and must do so against fresh fears of a rise in terror after the United States’ hasty exit from Afghanistan, the country from which the September 11 attacks were plotted.
Evacuations continued in Afghanistan on Friday with an additional 21 U.S. citizens and 11 Lawful Permanent Residents fleeing Taliban rule, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. This was just one day after Taliban granted permission for a flight with Americans and foreign nationals to leave Afghanistan. The State Department didn’t say how many Americans are still in Afghanistan. On Tuesday, Blinken estimated there were around 100 Americans still in the country who wanted to leave, adding that U.S. officials were in contact with all of them.