US President Joe Biden marked the 21st anniversary of the September 11 attacks, attending a somber wreath-laying ceremony at the Pentagon held under a steady rain and paying tribute to “extraordinary Americans” who gave their lives on one of the country’s darkest days.
Sunday’s ceremony took place a little more than a year after Biden ended the long and costly war in Afghanistan launched by the United States and allies in response to the terrorist attacks.
Biden noted that even after the United States left Afghanistan, his administration continues to pursue those responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Last month, Biden announced that the United States had killed Ayman al-Zawahri, the al-Qaeda leader who helped plan the 9/11 attacks, in a covert operation.
“We will never forget, we will never give up,” Biden said. “Our commitment to preventing another attack on the United States is unending.”
The US president was joined by family members of the fallen, first responders who had been at the Pentagon on the day of the attack, as well as Defense Department leadership for the annual moment of tribute held in New York City, at the Pentagon and in Somerset County, Pa.
“We owe you an incredible, incredible debt,” Biden said.
In Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paid tribute to the nearly 3,000 victims of the attacks, including 24 Canadians, and praised first responders.
On the 21st anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11, we remember the nearly 3,000 victims. Our condolences to their loved ones. And we thank those who stepped up that day – and in the days that followed – to protect others. https://t.co/1ZkpT96W54
“Twenty-one years ago today, the world witnessed the deadliest terrorist attacks in the history of the United States, our closest neighbor and ally,” Trudeau said in a statement. “We offer our condolences to the families and friends who lost loved ones. Our thoughts also go out to all those who continue to live with the pain and trauma caused by these horrific events.”
In Gander, NL, US Ambassador to Canada David Cohen thanked residents for their kindness in hosting thousands of air travelers stranded by the 9/11 attacks.
“On behalf of the President of the United States, on behalf of the American people, and from the bottom of my heart, thank you for your kindness, for humanity, and for giving us hope and optimism that good will always triumph over evil, ” Cohen said Sunday.
The demarcation in Afghanistan continues
By ending the war in Afghanistan, the Democratic president followed through on a campaign promise to bring American troops home from the country’s longest conflict. But the war ended in chaos in August 2021, when the US-backed Afghan government collapsed, a brutal bombing killed 170 Afghans and 13 US soldiers at Kabul’s airport, and thousands of desperate Afghans gathered hoping to escape before the last US cargo planes departed . Hindu Kush.
Biden quietly marked the one-year anniversary of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan late last month. He issued a statement honoring the 13 American troops killed in the Kabul airport bombing and spoke by phone with American veterans assisting the ongoing effort to resettle in the United States Afghans who helped the war effort.
Biden said Sunday that an “incredible debt” was owed to the U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan, as well as their families. More than 2,200 American service members were killed and more than 20,000 were wounded during the nearly 20-year war, according to the Pentagon.
He also promised that the nation “will never fail to fulfill the sacred obligation to you to properly prepare and equip those whom we send into harm’s way, and to care for them and their families when they come home — and never ever to forget.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday criticized Biden’s handling of the war’s end, noting that the country has declined under renewed Taliban rule since the US withdrawal.
“Now, a year after the disaster of last August, the devastating scope of the fallout from President Biden’s decision has come into sharper focus,” the Kentucky Republican said. “Afghanistan has become a global pariah. Its economy has shrunk by nearly a third. Half the population now suffers from critical levels of food insecurity.”
The president also recalled the comforting words Queen Elizabeth, who died Thursday, sent to the American people shortly after the 2001 attacks: “Grief is the price we pay for love.”
Biden said those words remain as poignant as they did 21 years ago, but the weight of the loss also remains heavy.
“On this day, when the award feels so amazing, Jill and I hold you all close to our hearts,” Biden said.
Biden criticizes ‘extreme ideology’
Biden has recently sounded warnings about what he calls former President Donald Trump’s “extreme ideology” and his “MAGA Republican” supporters as a threat to American democracy. Without mentioning Trump, Biden again raised a call on Sunday for Americans to protect democracy.
“It’s not enough to stand up for democracy once a year or every now and then,” Biden said. “It is something we must do every single day. So this is a day, not only to remember, but also a day of renewal and determination for every American in our devotion to this country, to the principles it embodies, to our democracy.”
First Lady Jill Biden addressed a crowd at the Flight 93 National Memorial Observance in Shanksville, Pa., recalling the concern she had for her sister Bonny Jacobs, a United Airlines flight attendant.
She said the attacks showed that “with courage and kindness we can be a light in the darkness.”
“It showed us that we are all connected,” said Biden, who was joined by his sister in Pennsylvania for Sunday’s memorial service. “So as we stand on this hallowed and scarred ground, a record of our collective grief and a monument to the memories that live on every day, this is the legacy we very much carry on: Hope that defies hate.”
US Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband attended a memorial ceremony at the National September 11th Memorial in New York.