President Joe Biden, first lady Jill Biden, Vice President KamalaHarris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff on Sunday are somberly marking the 21st anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001 by visiting the three sites of the terrorist attacks that left nearly 3,000 people dead.
Biden is leading a day of nationwide remembrance from Arlington, Va., against the backdrop of heavy wind and rain. He delivered forceful remarks after attending a wreath-laying ceremony at the Pentagon with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark A. Milley.
The ceremonies come on the heels of the anniversary of the messy withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and the collapse of the U.S.-backed Afghan government. It also comes nearly two months after the U.S. killed Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda and an architect of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, in a CIA drone strike in Kabul.
“Terror struck us in that brilliant blue morning,” he said on Sunday before a crowd of 9/11 families of victims and first responders who were at the Pentagon on the day of the attack. “The air filled with smoke and then came the sirens and the stories.”
“The American story itself changed that day,” he continued. But “what we will not change, what we cannot change, never will, is the character of this nation.”
The first lady is at the Flight 93 National Memorial Observance in Shanksville, Pa., and participated in the wreath-laying ceremony with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to remember the passengers and crew who brought down the hijacked plane headed for the U.S. Capitol.
In New York, Harris and Emhoff are attending a commemoration ceremony at the National September 11th Memorial.
Among the continuing legacies of the terrorist attacks includes what to do with the five Guantánamo Bay prisoners charged in the long-delayed 9/11 trial. In comments to reporters in Delaware before leaving for Sunday’s ceremony, Biden said there is a “plan” to address this.
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