Both President Biden and erstwhile President George W. Bush acknowledged that what has happened successful the years since has lone challenged the conception that Americans recovered spot successful coming together.
Sept. 11, 2021, 4:55 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON — As they traveled the state laying wreaths, strolling done clang sites successful pastoral meadows and comforting families whose wounds are ripped unfastened anew each year, 2 surviving presidents utilized the day of the Sept. 11 attacks to impulse Americans to travel unneurotic successful an effort to upwind heavy governmental and taste divisions.
“On America’s time of proceedings and grief, I saw millions of radical instinctively drawback for a neighbor’s manus and rally to the origin of 1 another,” erstwhile President George W. Bush said from the United Flight 93 memorial extracurricular Shanksville, Pa. “That is the America I know.”
But connected Saturday, some helium and President Biden acknowledged that what has happened successful the years since has lone challenged the conception that Americans prized coming unneurotic implicit choosing to turn hostile to 1 another’s differences. Mr. Bush’s decisions arsenic president 2 decades agone led to a warfare successful Afghanistan and different successful Iraq, and helium equated the ensuing emergence of home extremism successful the United States to the aforesaid poisonous beliefs that had inspired the hijackers.
Shortly aft Mr. Bush spoke, Mr. Biden, whose drawdown of the warfare successful Afghanistan has been criticized for its haphazard and convulsive end, arrived adjacent Shanksville to laic a wreath and sojourn a boulder where, successful 2001, a level filled with passengers and unit members, who had wrestled power from hijackers, had deed the ground.
Their appearances seemed similar publication ends to a 20-year communicative of calamity and part prompted by an unthinkable violent attack. But some of their remarks, solemn and laced with pleading, hinted that the adjacent harrowing section of America’s aboriginal was inactive being written.
“Are we going to, successful the adjacent four, five, six, 10 years, show that democracies tin work, oregon not?” Mr. Biden asked reporters gathered extracurricular Shanksville. “We really can, successful fact, pb by the illustration of our powerfulness again.”
As president, Mr. Biden is struggling to determination connected from the far-reaching aftermath of the attacks. The extremity of the warfare successful Afghanistan has been politically costly, and it has made it hard for him to pivot to a overseas argumentation doctrine that would amended presumption the state to combat what helium feels are much pressing challenges: combating clime change, preparing for aboriginal pandemics and keeping gait with China.
In a prerecorded connection posted to his Twitter account Friday evening, Mr. Biden gave an update of sorts to what helium said 20 years agone astir the country’s quality to withstand a situation similar Sept. 11.
“We saw nationalist unity bend. We learned that the unity is the 1 happening that indispensable ne'er break,” helium said successful the video message. “Unity is what makes america who we are, America astatine its best. To me, that’s the cardinal acquisition of Sept. 11. It’s that astatine our astir vulnerable, successful the propulsion and propulsion of each that makes america human, successful the conflict of the psyche of America, unity is our top strength.”
Mr. Biden has besides been pressured by families of Sept. 11 victims to merchandise much accusation connected the root of the attacks. This month, the president made bully connected a run committedness to disclose long-classified documents that families of the victims judge could item connections betwixt the authorities of Saudi Arabia and the hijackers.
The families had called for Mr. Biden to bash truthful oregon refrain from attending Sept. 11 memorial events. But connected Saturday, helium began his time successful New York City. He and the archetypal lady, Jill Biden, stood astatine the 9/11 memorial plaza with their Democratic predecessors, Barack and Michelle Obama and Bill and Hillary Clinton, who was a legislator of New York 20 years ago.
Nearby was Rudolph W. Giuliani, a Republican who was the politician of New York during the attacks and an unsparing professional of Mr. Biden, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama.
Notably absent from the proceedings was different surviving president.
Former President Donald J. Trump had received accusation astir the memorial lawsuit successful New York City, organizers said, but Mr. Trump’s spokeswoman said helium had chosen alternatively to sojourn a constabulary presumption and a firehouse, wherever helium spoke small astir Sept. 11 and alternatively denounced Mr. Biden. Mr. Trump besides issued a bid of statements that criticized Mr. Biden’s handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan and praised his allies, including Mr. Giuliani, his idiosyncratic lawyer, arsenic “the top politician successful the past of New York City.”
Mr. Biden did not straight code Mr. Trump’s criticism, but told reporters that determination was nary request for divisive governmental language.
“They deliberation this makes consciousness for america to beryllium successful this benignant of happening wherever you thrust down the thoroughfare and idiosyncratic has a motion saying ‘F truthful and so,’” Mr. Biden said, referring to the expletive-laden signs that are often spotted on statesmanlike motorcade routes.
Instead, during assorted stops astatine each 3 memorial sites — Lower Manhattan, Shanksville and the Pentagon — members of the Biden medication tried to contiguous a cleareyed presumption of what unfolded that day, arsenic good arsenic size up the toll the aftermath has taken connected Americans.
Vice President Kamala Harris said successful remarks delivered adjacent Shanksville that the calamity of the attacks had shown however “fear tin beryllium utilized to sow division,” and stressed that America’s diverseness was its top asset.
“If we bash the hard enactment of moving unneurotic arsenic Americans, if we stay agreed successful purpose,” she said, “we volition beryllium prepared for immoderate comes next.”
Ms. Harris, memorializing the 40 passengers and unit members who fought back, encouraged Americans to retrieve their sacrifice.
“On this 20th anniversary, connected this solemn time of remembrance, we indispensable situation ourselves, yes, to look back. To remember. For the involvement of our children. For the involvement of their children,” she said. “And for that reason, we indispensable besides look forward. We indispensable besides look toward the future. Because successful the end, I bash believe, that is what the 40 were warring for: their future, and ours.”
People who person known Mr. Biden for decades, who was a legislator of Delaware and president of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee astatine the clip of the Sept. 11 attacks, said they saw a parallel betwixt what helium had said successful the aftermath of the attacks and the connection helium uses to usher Americans done the coronavirus pandemic.
“People were walking up to him,” said Margaret Aitken, who was property caput for Mr. Biden erstwhile helium was a senator. “He was virtually stopping radical connected the thoroughfare who looked upset and giving that message: ‘We’re going to beryllium OK. We’re going to beryllium each right. There’s thing that erstwhile we travel unneurotic arsenic a federation we can’t overcome.’”
She added, “It’s precise accordant with what helium has been saying each along” done the pandemic.
Michael Gold contributed reporting.