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On 9/11's 20th, Biden's Message: 'Unity Is Our Greatest Strength

President set on Saturday to visit trio of sites where planes crashed on Sept. 11, 2001
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 11, 2021 5:30 AM CDT

(Newser) – President Biden is making an appeal for the nation to reclaim the spirit of cooperation that sprung up in the days following the 9/11 terror attacks as he commemorates those who died 20 years ago. Biden was a senator when hijackers commandeered four planes and exacted the nation's worst terror attack in 2001. Now he marks the 9/11 anniversary for the first time as commander in chief. The president planned to pay his respects at the trio of sites where the planes crashed, but he was leaving the speech-making to others.

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Instead, the White House released a taped address late Friday in which Biden spoke of the "true sense of national unity" that emerged after the attacks, seen in "heroism everywhere—in places expected and unexpected." "To me that's the central lesson of September 11," he said. "Unity is our greatest strength." Biden’s task, like his predecessors before him, was to mark the moment with a mix of grief and resolve. He gave voice to the pain that comes with memories of 9/11 in his video message, saying, "No matter how much time has passed, these commemorations bring everything painfully back as if you just got the news a few seconds ago."

Biden arrived in New York on Friday night as the skyline was illuminated by the "Tribute in Light," hauntingly marking where the twin towers once stood. His first stop on Saturday was to be the National September 11 Memorial, where the towers of the World Trade Center were toppled as a horrified world watched on TV. From there he was to visit the field near Shanksville, Pa., where a plane fell from the sky after heroic passengers fought terrorists to prevent it from reaching its Washington destination. Finally, he was headed to the Pentagon, where the world's mightiest military suffered an unthinkable blow to its very home.

Biden will be the fourth president to console the nation on the anniversary of that dark day. Robert Gibbs, who served as President Barack Obama's press secretary, said that for Biden, "it's a moment for people to see him not as Democratic president, but as president of the United States of America." On Saturday, as Biden makes his way to all three sites, former President George W. Bush, who was president on Sept. 11, 2001, was to pay his respects in Shanksville, while Obama was set to do likewise in New York. Former President Donald Trump planned at least one stop in Manhattan and then was to deliver ringside commentary at a boxing match at a casino in Hollywood, Fla.

Watch Biden's address here.

(Read more President Biden stories.)

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