March 3, 2024
President Joe Biden addressed the nation Sunday from the Pentagon, calling for Americans to "stand up" and protect democracy on the 21st anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

President Joe Biden addressed the nation Sunday from the Pentagon, calling for Americans to “stand up” and protect democracy on the 21st anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“To all the families and loved ones who still feel the ache, that missing piece of your soul, I’m honored to be here with you once more, to share the solid right of remembrance and reflect on all that was lost in the fire and ash on that terrible September morning,” the president said on a somber and rainy morning.

He quoted the late Queen Elizabeth II, saying, “Grief is the price we pay for love.” The queen, who died at the age of 96 on Thursday, used the line in a message to New York in 2001 after the Sept. 11 attacks.

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Biden claimed that “the nation changed that day” but vowed that what will never change is “the character of this nation that the terrorists thought they could move.”

The president specifically thanked the passengers aboard Flight 93, who died while confronting hijackers on their plane, as well as the Pentagon staff who helped in the immediate response to the attack.

“Here at the Pentagon, which is both a horrific terrorist attack and the command center for our response to defend and protect the American people,” he continued. “So many heroes were made here. So many of your loved ones were those heroes.”

The president closed by alluding to a campaign message he has delivered in recent weeks.

“This day, it is not about the past. It’s about the future. We have an obligation, a duty, or responsibility to defend, preserve, and protect our democracy, the very democracy that guarantees the rights of freedom, that those terrorists that 9/11 sought to bury in the burning fire, and smoke and ash, and that takes a commitment on the part of all of us,” he closed. “It’s not enough to stand up for democracy once a year, or every now and then — it’s something we have to do every single day. So this is a day not only to remember, but a day of renewal of resolve, for each and every American, and our devotion to this country, to the principles and bodies, to our democracy. That is who we owe those who remember today.”

Biden’s comments came after a wreath-laying ceremony at the Pentagon. First lady Jill Biden was not present at Sunday’s event, as she was traveling to the crash site of United Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Her remarks mark the first time a first lady has delivered a solo speech commemorating the 9/11 anniversary.

Meanwhile, Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff took part in memorial services in New York City. Both the president and first lady attended memorial services at all three crash sites on the 20th anniversary in 2021.

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Unlike many other lawmakers, Biden was not in D.C. on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. He reportedly learned of the attacks in a phone call from his wife, Jill, while traveling to Washington via Amtrak, and the pair have spoken extensively about the pain experienced both by them personally and the nation as a whole in the days following the attacks.

“Unity is what makes us who we are, America at its best. To me, that’s the central lesson of September 11th,” the president explained in taped remarks for the 20th anniversary. It’s that at our most vulnerable, in the push and pull of all that makes us human, in the battle of the soul of America, unity is our greatest strength.”

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