US 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 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.
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”.
Biden and former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and the crowd held a moment of silence at 8:46am 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 overtook 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 Republican mayor of New York at the time of the attacks, attended the ceremony. Former President Donald Trump, a New York native, did not.
Biden then flew to Shanksville, Pennsylvania where he was to lay a wreath. Former President George W Bush, who led the country in 2001, spoke in Shanksville about the threat of domestic terrorism and called for unity amid growing political division, in rare public comments.
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 honor their courage, their conviction, with our own; that we honor their unity by strengthening our common bonds, by strengthening our global partnerships.”
Biden was slated to return to the Washington area 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’s withdrawal of US troops in August, months after a deadline set by his Republican predecessor Trump, and the resulting rapid fall of the country to the Taliban has drawn criticism from members of both political parties.– Reuters