US presidents display unity on 20th anniversary of 9/11

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By Clemence Waller  with AP
US presidents display unity on 20th anniversary of 9/11
Copyright  AFP

The United States and several European leaders commemorated the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks with solemn and moving tributes on Saturday.

To mark this sombre occasion, President Joe Biden went on a memorial tour of the three plane crash sites where thousands of lives were lost. 

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.

At the site of the World trade centre in New York, where the Twin Towers were struck down in a volley of fire and debris, three presidents stood united. Biden, along with former Presidents Obama and Clinton, wore blue ribbons, shared a moment of silence and held their hands over their hearts as a procession carrying the American flag made its way along the memorial, surrounded by hundreds of people, some of whom held photos of lost loved ones.

At the memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where passengers of the United 93 flight overwhelmed the hijackers and brought the plane down in a field, Former President George W. Bush gave a passionate speech. Bush, who was president during the attacks noted how 9/11 showed that Americans could unite despite their differences. He also remarked with sadness that "so much of American politics has become "a naked appeal to anger, fear and resentment.''

"On America's day of trial and grief, I saw millions of people instinctively grab for a neighbour's hand, and rally for the cause of one another. That is the America I know," he said.

Biden's vice president, Kamala Harris, also spoke in Shanksville at the Flight 93 National Memorial, praising the courage of those passengers and the resilience of Americans who came together in the days after 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.''

Biden visited the Shanksville firehouse to deliver thanks to the first responders and praised Bush’s call for unity, telling reporters that he thought the former president made a really good speech today. Genuinely.''

Former President Trump skipped the 9/11 memorial ceremonies. Instead, he visited a firehouse and a police station in New York.

Biden, Harris and their spouses ended the day of remembrance at the National Pentagon 9/11 Memorial. The president and first lady took a moment of silence before a wreath studded with white, purple and red flowers in front of memorial benches marking the 184 victims of the attack.