Three presidents and their wives stood somberly side by side on Saturday 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.
Presidents Joe Biden, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton gathered at the site where the World Trade Center towers fell two decades ago. They each wore blue ribbons and held their hands over their hearts as a procession marched a flag through the memorial, watched by hundreds of Americans gathered for the remembrance, some carrying photos of loved ones lost in the attacks.
Before the event began, a jet flew overhead in an eerie echo of the attacks, drawing a glance from Biden toward the sky. For much of the ceremony he stood with his arms crossed and head bowed, listening while the names of the victims were read. At one point, he wiped a tear from his eye.
Biden was a senator when hijackers commandeered four planes and executed the attack. Now he marks the 9/11 anniversary for the first time as commander in chief.
The president was spending Saturday paying his respects at the trio of sites where the planes crashed, but he left the speech-making to others.
Vice President Kamala Harris spoke at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, commemorating the heroes who brought down a hijacked plane that was headed for the U.S. Capitol. Harris praised their courage and the resilience of the American people, who came together in the days following the attacks.
“In a time of outright terror, we turned toward each other,” she said. “If we do the hard work of working together as Americans, if we remain united in purpose, we will be prepared for whatever comes next.”
Former President George W. Bush also spoke at the Shanksville memorial, recalling how 9/11 showed Americans can unite despite their differences, a message he said was needed today.
“So much of our politics have become a naked appeal to anger, fear and resentment,” Bush said. “On America’s day of trial and grief, I saw millions of people instinctively grab for a neighbor’s hand, and rally for the cause of one another. That is the America I know.”
It was a theme that Biden also emphasized in a taped address released by the White House late Friday, where he spoke about 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.”
Following the morning ceremony in New York City, Biden will visit the field near Shanksville where the plane fell from the sky and then head to the Pentagon, where the world’s mightiest military suffered an unthinkable blow to its very home.
Biden’s task, like that of his predecessors before him, was to mark the moment with a mix of grief and resolve. A man who has suffered immense personal tragedy, Biden speaks of loss with power.
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.”
Robert Gibbs, who served as Obama’s press secretary, said for Biden, “It’s a moment for people to see him not as Democratic president, but as president of the United States of America,.”
“The American people are somewhat conflicted about what they have seen out of Afghanistan the last couple of weeks,” Gibbs said. “For Biden, it’s a moment to try to reset some of that. Remind people of what it is to be commander in chief and what it means to be the leader of the country at a moment of such significance.”
On the 20th anniversary of the attacks, 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 Sept. 11 attacks were plotted.
Biden is the fourth president to console the nation on the anniversary of that dark day, one that has shaped many of the most consequential domestic and foreign policy decisions made by the chief executives over the past two decades.
Bush was reading a book to Florida schoolchildren when the planes slammed into the World Trade Center. He spent that day being kept out of Washington for security reasons — a decision then-Sen. Biden urged him to reconsider, the current president has written — and then delivered a brief, halting speech that night from the White House to a terrified nation.
The terror 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 over his shoulder as he vowed, “What our enemies have begun, we will finish.”
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were still deadly when Obama visited the Pentagon to mark his first Sept. 11 in office in 2009.
By the time Obama spoke at the 10th anniversary, attack mastermind Osama bin Laden was dead, killed in a May 2011 Navy SEAL raid. Though the nation remained entangled overseas, and vigilant against terror threats, the anniversary became more about healing.
President Donald Trump pledged to get the U.S. out of Afghanistan, but his words during his first Sept. 11 anniversary ceremony in 2017 were a vivid warning to terrorists, telling “these savage killers that there is no dark corner beyond our reach, no sanctuary beyond our grasp, and nowhere to hide anywhere on this very large earth.”
Republished with permission from The Associated Press.
September 11, 2021 at 1:31 pm
Pouting and wallowing in his victimhood?
September 11, 2021 at 3:02 pm
Why invite Trump to a Democratic party event?
September 11, 2021 at 5:10 pm
Because he’s too busy pretending to be the victim.
September 11, 2021 at 5:29 pm
I write “Why invite. . . .?” And you write “Because he is too busy. . . .” As all us un-edumacated country folk would say, “That-there answer doan make no sense, nohow!” And we’d be right.
September 11, 2021 at 5:31 pm
Because that IS what he’s doing.
Now do you get it?
September 11, 2021 at 5:39 pm
Where’s Trump on 9/11? Not at ground zero.
Sept. 11, 2021, 2:14 p.m. ET3 hours ago
3 hours ago
By Katie Rogers
Former President Donald J. Trump visited the 17th Precinct of the New York City Police Department on Saturday.
Former President Donald J. Trump visited the 17th Precinct of the New York City Police Department on Saturday.Credit…Mario Anzuoni/Reuters
Notably absent from the 9/11 memorial ceremonies on Saturday was former President Donald J. Trump, a native New Yorker who built much of his political brand in the divisive aftermath of the attacks. Mr. Trump was in New York City, his spokeswoman said, but was not planning to visit ground zero.
“He had the option to attend but decided to honor the day with different stops,” his spokeswoman, Liz Harrington, said.
President Biden, former President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton all attended the somber name-reading ceremony in Lower Manhattan. Former President George W. Bush spoke at a memorial near Shanksville, Pa., where Mr. Biden attended a wreath-laying ceremony.
But instead of appearing at one of the ceremonies, Mr. Trump released a series of aggressive statements that criticized Mr. Biden’s handling of the troop pullout in Afghanistan and praised his allies, including Rudolph W. Giuliani, his personal lawyer and the mayor of New York on the day of the Sept. 11 attacks.
September 11, 2021 at 5:56 pm
Was Biden waving a white flag at the event today?
September 11, 2021 at 6:03 pm
Nah, that was Trump and his pointy hat white robes.
September 11, 2021 at 6:17 pm
So should the gorilla girl remove her mask and wear a pointy hat as well? That was certainly a racially motivated attack on Larry Elder. Kalifornia Democrat.
September 11, 2021 at 6:20 pm
Epic failure to connect.
Try again tomorrow.
September 12, 2021 at 3:02 pm
Alex, Joe Biden made a Democratic Party circus out of what is supposed to be a nonpartisan day of national sorrow and remembrance. Okay, so Trump visited the police and fire departments to express his genuine appreciation to the men and women who serve. But why was George Bush, a hero of America’s resistance to international blackmail and terrorism, left out of the event? He is the one who should have been the lead. What in the name of H– did either Bill Clinton or Barack Obama have to do with 9/11? Obama was still a junior senator in Springfield, IL and as far as Clinton goes, who knows what 9/11 interrupted in his little hidey hole in Armonk. He wasn’t practicing law, that’s for sure, his law license having been lifted in his home state where even the authorities who owed him so much couldn’t swallow his malfeasance. No, Alex, the blue lights that shine up from the graveyard of the towers are just the right touch, but it’s the ACT BLUE campaigning that cheapens Biden’s America. But, that’s the Democrat party for ya’.
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