Biden Visits All Three Attack Sites on 20th Anniversary of 9/11

SHANKSVILLE, Pa. (Reuters) -
President Joe Biden flies aboard Marine One during the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in New York City. (Reuters/Mario Anzuoni)

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

In the first of his wordless tributes, Biden stood in somber silence with former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton at the New York City site where planes brought down the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers.

The three leaders shared a moment of silence with the crowd at 8:46 a.m. to mark the time that the first plane hit. Heads bowed, they listened as relatives read the names of those who died.

The Bidens then flew to Shanksville, Pennsylvania, before heading back to the Washington area to visit the Pentagon.

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.

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 after 9/11.

“The core of who we are is not divided,” Biden said Saturday during a visit to a fire station after the Shanksville ceremony.

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

Biden told reporters the passengers and crew who stormed the cockpit had stepped up in a crisis. “That’s genuine heroism,” he said. He praised a speech given in Shanksville earlier in the day by former President George W. Bush, the Republican who was in office during the Sept. 11 attacks.

In a rare public address, Bush warned of the threat from domestic terrorism. He recalled how Americans came together after the attacks and urged a spirit of greater unity amid growing political division in the country.

Biden‘s last visit of the day was to the Pentagon, the symbol of U.S. 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 U.S.-led war in Afghanistan that Bush launched some 20 years ago to root out al-Qaida, which carried out the 9/11 attacks.

Biden‘s withdrawal of U.S. troops in August, months after a deadline set by his predecessor Trump, and the resulting rapid fall of the country to the Taliban has drawn criticism from members of both political parties.

Trump, who did not attend any of the three Sept. 11 tributes, appeared instead at a friendly police precinct near Trump Tower in Manhattan.

The former President criticized Biden over the Afghanistan withdrawal, repeated his claim of 2020 election fraud and hinted he may take another run at the White House.

U.S. 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.

In his video address, Biden noted the heroism that was seen in the days following the attacks 20 years ago. “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 took office in late January, but the country remains deeply divided politically.

Last month, many families of 9/11 victims asked Biden to skip 20-year memorial events unless he declassified documents they contend will show Saudi Arabian leaders supported the attacks. Last week, the President ordered the Department of Justice to review documents from the FBI probe into the attacks for declassification and release.