WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden had planned to visit the three sites of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on Saturday as the nation marked the 20th anniversary of the day.
“To the families of the 2,977 people from over 90 nations killed on September 11, 2001 in New York City, Arlington, Virginia and Shanksville, Pa., And the thousands more who were injured, America will commemorate you and your loved ones, ”Biden said in a video posted Friday.
The president was scheduled to start the day in New York City, attending a memorial event at Ground Zero on Saturday morning with First Lady Jill Biden and former President Barack Obama. He was to travel by the Flight 93 memorial in Shanksville, where former President George W. Bush was scheduled to speak, before heading to the Pentagon, participating in wreath-laying ceremonies at both locations.
Biden marked the milestone anniversary, his first as president, weeks after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, nearly two decades after the United States ousted them from power in the wake of the terrorist attacks. September 11th.
In April, Biden had set that date this year as the deadline for the full U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan – recently acknowledging that he did not foresee a quick Taliban takeover that would return them to power by then.
It wasn’t the only thorny challenge Biden faced in the weeks leading up to the anniversary. As the day approaches, a group of 1,800 family members of 9/11 victims and first responders said they would oppose Biden’s participation in any anniversary event unless he declassified the documents. they were looking for as part of the relevant FBI attack planning investigations.
Biden signed an executive order on Friday granting their request to release documents they said could show a link between the Saudi leadership and the attacks. Biden ordered the documents to be released over the next six months, unless there is a clear national security rationale to keep them classified.
“As the 20th anniversary of September 11 approaches, the American people deserve to have a more complete picture of what their government knows about these attacks,” he said in a statement last week.
Biden, who is no stranger to loss, has assumed the role of chief comforter throughout his presidency. He held a candle lighting ceremony marking 500,000 Covid deaths in February and delivered a prime time speech to the nation to mark a year of lockdown.
His Saturday itinerary recalls how some of his predecessors over the past 20 years marked other milestone anniversaries of the day of national mourning.
On the first anniversary of the attacks, Bush made remarks at the Pentagon, visited a memorial service in Shanksville, then gave a speech that evening with the Statue of Liberty in the background, visiting again on the three sites on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of this day. .
On the 10-year mark, Obama also made stops at all three sites, speaking at Ground Zero. Biden, then vice president, spoke to the Pentagon about his empathy for those who lost loved ones that day. “I know what it’s like to receive this call out of the blue, that the most expensive thing in your life is gone,” he said at the time.
On Friday, Biden again stressed the pain of the loss suffered that day.
“It’s so difficult whether it’s the first year or the 20th,” he said. “… No matter how much time has passed, these commemorations bring everything back painfully as if you just heard the news a few seconds ago.”