ice President Kamala Harris conjured up the courage of the tragic passengers aboard Flight 92 in an emotional speech at the September 11 memorial service.
President Joe Biden left the speech duties to his deputy at Shanksville, Pennsylvania as he formed a display of unity with former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama – without Donald Trump.
Before the event began, a jet flew overhead in an eerie echo of the attacks, drawing a glance from Biden toward the sky. For much of the ceremony he stood with his arms crossed and head bowed, listening while the names of the victims were read. At one point, he wiped a tear from his eye.
Biden was a senator when hijackers commandeered four planes and executed the attack. Now he marks the 9/11 anniversary for the first time as commander in chief.
The president was spending Saturday paying his respects at the trio of sites where the planes crashed, but he left the speech-making to others.
Kamala Harris reflected on the heroism of the passengers who fought the hijackers in her moving speech.
United Airlines Flight 93 was hijacked by four al-Qaeda terrorists during the September 11th attacks. However, it crashed into a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, after passengers and crew attempted to regain control.
“What happened on Flight 93 told us then, and it still tells us so much about the courage of those on board who gave everything they possibly could, about the resolve of the first responders who risked everything and about the resilience of the American people,” she said.
“In a time of outright terror, we turned toward each other. In the face of a stranger, we saw a neighbour and a friend. That time reminded us the significance and the strength of our unity as Americans, and that it is possible in America,” she said.
The president laid a wreath at the Flight 93 National Memorial and silently reflected in front of the wall with the names of the 40 victims.
Former President George W. Bush also spoke at the Shanksville memorial, recalling how 9/11 showed Americans can unite despite their differences, a message he said was needed today.
“So much of our politics have become a naked appeal to anger, fear and resentment,” Bush said. “On America’s day of trial and grief, I saw millions of people instinctively grab for a neighbor’s hand, and rally for the cause of one another. That is the America I know.”
It was a theme that Biden also emphasized in a taped address released by the White House late Friday, where he spoke about 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.”