Biden visits all three attack sites on 20th anniversary of 9/11

Filed on September 11, 2021
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden lay a wreath at the Wall of Names during a visit to the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville. — AP

The Bidens, with former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, shared a moment of silence with the crowd

President Joe Biden commemorated the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the United States on Saturday with visits to each of the sites where hijacked planes crashed in 2001, honouring the victims of the devastating assault.

Biden began the day in New York, where he and first lady Jill Biden attended a ceremony at the site where the World Trade Center’s twin towers once stood before planes struck the buildings and caused them to collapse. They then flew to Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and were scheduled to return to the Washington area and visit the Pentagon.

At the World Trade Center site, the New York Police Department pipes and drums band played “Hard Times Come Again No More” a US folk song from the 1850s. Bruce Springsteen, playing an acoustic guitar, sang “I’ll See You in My Dreams”.

The Bidens, with former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and former first ladies Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama, shared a moment of silence with the crowd at 8.46 to mark the time that the first plane hit.

Nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks in New York, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania, where passengers on United Flight 93 overcame the hijackers and the plane crashed in a field, preventing another target from being hit.

In New York City, on a clear, beautiful day similar to the weather 20 years ago, relatives read a list of the people who died at the towers.

Biden, head bowed, did not make remarks. Rudy Giuliani, the mayor of New York at the time of the attacks, attended the ceremony. Former President Donald Trump, a New York native, did not.

In Shanksville, the Bidens participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Flight 93 National Memorial where names of the deceased are etched on a marble wall.

Also in Shanksville, in rare public comments, former President George W. Bush, who led the country at the time of the attacks, warned of the threat of domestic terrorism. Recalling the unity of the American people in the days after 9/11, he called for a return to that spirit amid growing political division in the country.

Vice-President Kamala Harris said the passengers and crew members who died in Shanksville focused on common humanity during a time of terror. “It is my hope and prayer that we continue to honour their courage, their conviction, with our own; that we honour their unity by strengthening our common bonds, by strengthening our global partnerships.”

Later in the day Biden was to visit the Pentagon, the symbol of US military might that was pierced by another of the planes that were used as missiles that day.

The anniversary comes shortly after the end of the US-led war in Afghanistan that Bush launched some 20 years ago to root out Al Qaeda, which carried out the 9/11 attacks.

Biden was not scheduled to deliver remarks at any of the sites. He released a video on Friday to express his condolences to the loved ones of the victims and highlight the national unity that resulted, at least initially, after 9/11.

“It’s so hard. Whether it’s the first year or the 20th, children have grown up without parents and parents have suffered without children,” Biden said.

The president noted the heroism that was seen in the days following the attacks.

“We also saw something all too rare: A true sense of national unity,” Biden said.

Biden, a Democrat, pledged to build up such unity after he came into office in late January, but the country remains deeply divided politically.

US presidents often travel to one of the three sites on the 9/11 anniversary but it is unusual to go to all three on the same day.

“The president felt it was important to visit each of these three sites to commemorate the lives lost, the sacrifices made on a day that has impacted millions of people across the country but certainly many people in those communities,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Friday.

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