US President, Joe Biden, has urged unity as his country remembers the victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Biden was a senator when hijackers commandeered four planes and exacted the nation’s worst terror attack 20 years ago, leading to the death of 2,977 people. Now he marks the 9/11 anniversary for the first time as commander-in-chief.
In a video released Friday night, he mourned the ongoing losses of 9/11.
“We honour all those who risked and gave their lives in the minutes, hours, months and years afterwards,” Mr Biden added, speaking of the emergency workers who responded to the attacks.
“Children have grown up without parents, and parents have suffered without children,” said Biden, a childhood friend of the father of a Sept. 11 victim, Davis Grier Sezna Jr.
Biden spoke of 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.
“No matter how much time has passed, these commemorations bring everything painfully back as if you just got the news a few seconds ago,” the president said.
He acknowledged the “darker forces of human nature – fear and anger, resentment and violence against Muslim Americans” which followed the attacks, but said that unity had remained the US’ “greatest strength”.
“We learned that unity is the one thing that must never break,” he added.
The president planned to pay his respects at the trio of sites where the planes crashed, but he was leaving the speech-making to others.
Biden arrived in New York on Friday night as the skyline was illuminated by the “Tribute in Light,” hauntingly marking where the towers once stood. His first stop on Saturday was to be the National September 11 Memorial, where the twin towers of the World Trade Center were toppled as a horrified world watched on television.
From there he was to visit the field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where a plane fell from the sky after heroic passengers fought terrorists to prevent it from reaching its Washington destination. And finally, he was headed to the Pentagon, where the world’s mightiest military suffered an unthinkable blow to its very home.
Former President George W. Bush, the nation’s leader on 9/11, is due at the Pennsylvania memorial and his successor, Barack Obama, at ground zero. The only other post-9/11 U.S. president, Donald Trump, is planning to be in New York, in addition to providing commentary at a boxing match in Florida in the evening.
Other observances — from a wreath-laying in Portland, Maine, to a fire engine parade in Guam — are planned across a country now full of 9/11 plaques, statues and commemorative gardens.
There will also be six moments of silence to correspond with the times the two World Trade Center towers were struck and fell, and the moments the Pentagon was attacked and Flight 93 crashed.
The attacks, which were planned by al-Qaeda from Afghanistan, saw four US passenger jets seized by suicide attackers – two of which were flown into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York.
Another plane crashed into the Pentagon, just outside the US capital, Washington DC, and a fourth plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania after passengers fought back.
The commemorations come at a difficult time for the president, who has faced strong criticism in recent weeks over the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, which ended a US presence that began less than a month after the 11 September attacks.
Mr Biden had promised to leave Afghanistan by the 20th anniversary of the attacks, and said it was unlikely the Taliban could seize the country.
Instead, the militant group went from taking control of their first major city to capturing the capital in less than 10 days.
Additional reporting from AP and BBC