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One of the family members who read the names of the 9/11 attack victims in New York City took the opportunity at the podium on Sunday to deliver a reminder to politicians 21 years later.
At the annual memorial in Lower Manhattan, the man said despite being just age 4 at the time, he remembers his cousin, John de Giovanni, a victim of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing “clear as day.”
“I love you and I miss you,” he said, before recognizing another cousin, Kurt Wolfgruber, who died in 2019 from cancer and was the chairman for the Voices of 9/11, an organization dedicated to providing support to victims and first responders with 9/11 related illnesses as well as their family members.
“If it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t have this opportunity to speak the way we do and remember our loved ones,” the man said of Wolfgruber. “Everyone in front of us is a new family. It took a tragedy to create this new family.”
“I want to remind everyone over there our politicians and elected leaders surrounded by a border right now,” the man continued, referencing the cordoned off area where politicians were standing. “It took a tragedy to unite our country. Back then, no one cared if you were a Republican, Democrat, age, gender, race, ethnicity. We were united. It took a tragedy to unite us.”
The camera panned to where Vice President Kamala Harris was standing. Next to her husband, Doug Emhoff, she applauded. New York City Mayor Eric Adams looked on solemnly, as did former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell was also visible in frame.
“And I want to remind all of you there. It should not take another tragedy to unite our nation, because if I have to stand at this podium again or another podium for another event because of lives lost, because of dereliction of duty, it’s going to hurt just like it hurts me,” the man added, garnering applause from the crowd. “I want to thank everyone for being here, and I’m going to continue doing this until the day that I die. And I’m joined with my family up there. God bless America. Thank you.”
Sunday marks the 21st anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks when al-Qaeda terrorists flew hijacked commercial airplanes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing nearly 3,000 people. The U.S. and its allies responded by launching the Afghanistan war.
President Biden marked the one-year anniversary of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan late last month in low-key fashion. He campaigned on bringing troops home from what was the U.S.’s longest conflict, but the war chaotically concluded in August 2021 when the government collapsed, and a grisly bombing killed 170 Afghans and 13 U.S. troops at Kabul’s airport.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.