WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden and other political leaders paid tribute Sunday to the fallen of 9/11, somberly marking the 21st anniversary of the deadliest terrorist attack in the nation’s history.
After a wreath-laying ceremony at the Pentagon, Biden said 9/11 changed the United States in countless ways, but did not damage the character of the American people.
“There’s nothing this nation cannot accomplish when we stand together,” Biden said as a steady rain fell outside the nation’s military headquarters.
While not specifically citing the nation’s current political divisions, Biden also noted that reactions to 9/11 promoted “a true sense of national unity.” At the end of his remarks, Biden said the nation should use the anniversary to renew its commitment to democracy, and said “we’ll secure our democracy together.”
The 20th commemoration: ‘Unity is our greatest strength’: Biden honors victims ahead of 9/11 anniversary
Biden did not discuss the problems generated by 9/11-related wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but did stress the military operations that killed organizers of the 9/11 attacks, including Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Earlier in the morning, as a Marine held an umbrella over his head, Biden walked between two rows of service members during a wreath-laying ceremony at the Pentagon, one of the buildings targeted by the 9/11 hijackers.
Officials with the Biden administration and Congress fanned out across the country to honor the sad day.
Vice President Kamala Harris attended the annual memorial service at the site of the former World Trade Center, the two towers toppled by hijacked planes in the early morning of Sept. 11, 2001.
First lady Jill Biden attended the event at the memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where another hijacked plane – speeding toward Washington, D.C. – plunged to earth amid a fight between passengers and their captors.
It was all a more low-key commemoration than last year’s 20th anniversary of the attack that led to invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and a global “war on terror”; big changes in foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East; and increased security at airports and public buildings across the the world.
Government officials, everyday citizens, members of the military and law enforcement, and survivors of 9/11 participated in moments of silence, the tolling of bells, volunteer work, and the reading of the names of the victims.
The 9/11 anniversary is also marked by a National Day of Service and Remembrance.
Officials from both parties sent out a flurry of statements.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the Republican leader of the U.S. Senate, said that 9/11 terrorists “changed the course of our history forever. But the American values they tried to smash endured. The American spirit they tried to break only grew stronger. Today, let us recommit once more: Never again.”
Attorney General Merrick Garland said federal law enforcement continues to be vigilant, more than two decades after 9/11.
“As we remember, we also rededicate ourselves to protecting the American people,” Garland said, “and to doing so in a manner that is consistent with our values and with the rule of law.”