NEW YORK (AP), Three presidents and their wives stood side-by-side at the National September 11 Memorial on Saturday, sharing a moment in silence to commemorate the nation’s worst terrorist attack.
Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Barack Obama all attended the memorial site where the World Trade Center towers were destroyed two decades ago. Each wore blue ribbons, and they held their hands above their hearts as a procession marched through the memorial. Hundreds of Americans watched, many with photos of loved ones who were lost in the attacks,
A jet flew overhead before the event started in an eerie echo from the attacks. Biden glanced toward the sky as it passed. Biden sat with his arms crossed and his head in the air, listening as the names of those who died were read. One point, the president wiped his eyes with a tissue.
Biden was a senator at the time that hijackers took control of four planes and carried out the attack. Biden is now commander-in-chief and marks the 9/11 anniversary.
While the president was visiting the three sites where the planes crashed on Saturday, he decided to leave the speech-making to others.
Kamala Harris, Vice-President, addressed the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville (PA), to commemorate the heroes who shot down a hijacked airplane headed for the U.S. Capitol. Harris spoke highly of their courage, resilience, and the strength of the American people. She also talked about the unity that Americans felt in the days following the attacks.
“In times of terror and outright fear, we turned to each other,” she stated. “If we put in the effort to work together as Americans, and if our purpose is clear, we will be prepared for anything that comes next.”
Late Friday, the White House released a taped address in which Biden spoke about the “true sense” of national unity that emerged following the attacks. It was also seen in “heroism all around — in places unexpected and expected.”
He said, “To me that’s central lesson of September 11,” “Unity, our greatest strength,” he said.
Biden arrived in New York Friday night as the “Tribute in Light” illuminated the skyline, marking the spot where the towers used to be.
Biden will visit Shanksville near the accident site and then travel to the Pentagon to see the damage done to the home of the most powerful military in the world.
Biden’s task was similar to his predecessors, to mark the moment with a mixture of grief and determination. Biden, a man who has experienced immense personal tragedy speaks with power about loss.
In his video message, he spoke out about the pain of the 9/11 memories, saying that “No matter how long it has been, these commemorations bring all the painful memories back as if it was just a few seconds ago.”
Robert Gibbs, Obama’s press secretary said about Biden that “It’s an opportunity for people to see him non as Democratic president but as president of United States of America.”
Gibbs said that “the American people are somewhat conflicted over what they have seen out in Afghanistan the last few weeks.” It’s an opportunity to reset some of those for Biden. Remind them of what it’s like to be commander in Chief and what it means being the leader of the nation at such a significant moment.
Biden must now take on the responsibility of his predecessors in preventing future tragedy. He must also face new terror fears after the abrupt departure of the United States from Afghanistan, where the Sept. 11 attacks were planned.
Biden is the fourth president who consoled the nation on the anniversary. This has been a pivotal moment in many of the best domestic and international policy decisions made over the past 20 years by chief executives.
George W. Bush was reading a book to children in Florida when the planes struck the World Trade Center. This terror attack defined his presidency. He was prevented from visiting Washington on that day by then-Sen. Biden. This decision was urged to him to reconsider. The current president then wrote — and gave a brief, incontinent speech that night at the White House to a scared nation.
Bush chose Ellis Island to deliver his first anniversary address in 2001. The Statue of Liberty was over his shoulder and he declared, “Whatever their enemies have begun, they will finish.”
Obama was still waging wars against Afghanistan and Iraq when he visited the Pentagon to commemorate his first Sept. 11, 2009 in office.
He stated, “No words will ease the pain in your hearts.”
He said, “We remember the beauty and significance of their lives.” “No dark sky, no passing of time can obscure the meaning of this moment.”
Obama was speaking at the 10th anniversary when Osama Bin Laden, the attack mastermind, had already been killed in a Navy SEAL raid in May 2011. The anniversary was more about healing than anything else, even though the nation was still tangled in international affairs and alert against terrorist threats.
Trump promised to get the U.S. from Afghanistan. But his words at his 2017 first anniversary ceremony were a stark warning to terrorists. He said that “these savage murderers” had no other option but to reach for freedom and found no refuge.
Biden was on his way to each of the three sites when Bush stopped by Shanksville to pay his respects. Trump had at least one stop planned in Manhattan. He was to provide ringside commentary during a boxing match at Hollywood’s casino.
Jaffe reported in Washington.