Presidents, dignitaries, victims' families mark 20-year anniversary of 9/11

Joe Biden, plus former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, took part in today's ceremony at Sept. 11 memorial plaza in New York


Associated Press

NEW YORK — The 9/11 anniversary commemoration at ground zero has begun with a tolling bell and a moment of silence, exactly 20 years after the start of the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil.

President Joe Biden, former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, members of Congress, and other dignitaries joined a crowd of victims' relatives Saturday on the Sept. 11 memorial plaza in New York. The memorial stands where the World Trade Center's twin towers were rammed and felled by hijacked planes.

Bruce Springsteen performed at the World Trade Center memorial plaza during a ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The audience of dignitaries and family members of people killed in the 2001 attacks applauded after Springsteen performed his song "I'll See You In My Dreams" while accompanying himself on guitar and harmonica.

Victims' relatives then resumed their reading of names of the fallen, a tradition since the first anniversary of the attacks that leveled the trade center's twin towers.

A memorial flag is brought onto the stage during ceremonies to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York. 
A memorial flag is brought onto the stage during ceremonies to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York.  (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
From left, former President Bill Clinton, former First Lady Hillary Clinton, former President Barack Obama, former First Lady Michelle Obama, President Joe Bien, First Lady Jill Biden, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Bloomberg's partner Diana Taylor, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) stand for the national anthem during the annual 9/11 Commemoration Ceremony at the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021 in New York. 
From left, former President Bill Clinton, former First Lady Hillary Clinton, former President Barack Obama, former First Lady Michelle Obama, President Joe Bien, First Lady Jill Biden, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Bloomberg's partner Diana Taylor, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) stand for the national anthem during the annual 9/11 Commemoration Ceremony at the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021 in New York.  (Chip Somodevilla/Pool Photo via AP)

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SHANKSVILLE, Pa. — The victims and heroes of Flight 93 are being commemorated at a ceremony at the site where the plane crashed in a field on Sept. 11, 2001.

President Joe Biden was making an appearance, and Vice President Kamala Harris, former President George W. Bush and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf were also speaking.

Wolf said the passengers and crew of Flight 93, whose actions are believed to have led the hijackers to abandon their mission of targeting the U.S. Capitol, offered a lasting lesson of courage and hope.

"This story and this place remind us each day what it means to be an American," said Wolf, a Democrat. "In times of strife, we Americans, we come together. We comfort each other. We protect each other and we stand up for each other. This memorial is a powerful reminder of what we have lost. But it's also a powerful reminder of the strength of the American spirit."

Larry Catuzzi, father of Flight 93 passenger Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas, said in an interview that he talks to her every day.

"I say something that kind of reminds me of her, and I'll talk to her. Or something good happens to me and I thank her for her being with me," said Catuzzi, whose 38-year-old daughter was pregnant when she perished.

The family started a foundation in her name that has distributed college scholarships to more than 100 girls, funded three neonatal units and built a park in Houston memorializing the victims of Flight 93.

Former President George W. Bush told people at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Pennsylvania that Americans learned much about themselves on Sept. 11. 

"We learned that bravery is more common than we imagined, emerging with sudden splendor in the face of death," Bush said Saturday at a ceremony on the 20th anniversary of the attacks.

Bush, who was president during the attacks, commended the courage of the Flight 93 passengers and crew who are believed to have foiled an attack on the U.S. Capitol by leading the plane to crash in rural Pennsylvania.

"The 33 passengers and seven crew of Flight 93 could have been any group of citizens selected by fate. In a sense, they stood in for us all," Bush said. "The terrorists soon discovered that a random group of Americans is an exceptional group of people."

He encouraged Americans to put aside their political differences in the spirit of what he saw after 9/11.

"So much of our politics has become a naked appeal to anger, fear and resentment," Bush said. "On America's day of trial and grief, I saw millions of people instinctively grab their neighbor's hand and rally to the cause of one another."

Vice President Kamala Harris began her remarks at the Flight 93 memorial with words for those who lost loved ones on Sept. 11. 

"So many in our nation -- too many in our nation -- have deeply felt the passage of time these past 20 years," she said. "Please know your nation sees you and we stand with you and we support you."

Former President George W. Bush speaks during a memorial for the passengers and crew of United Flight 93, Saturday Sept. 11, 2021, in Shanksville, Pa., on the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, as Vice President Kamala Harris looks on, right.
Former President George W. Bush speaks during a memorial for the passengers and crew of United Flight 93, Saturday Sept. 11, 2021, in Shanksville, Pa., on the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, as Vice President Kamala Harris looks on, right. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
A National Park Service ranger stands in front of the Wall of Names at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa. before a Service of Remembrance Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, as the nation marks the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
A National Park Service ranger stands in front of the Wall of Names at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa. before a Service of Remembrance Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, as the nation marks the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

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ARLINGTON, Va. — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says that "we remember not just who our fallen teammates were, but the mission that they shared."

Austin made the prepared remarks at a Pentagon ceremony Saturday marking the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

He continued, "We recall their common commitment to defend our republic … and to squarely face new dangers.''

Austin noted that "almost a quarter of the citizens who we defend today were born after 9/11," including many of the 13 American service members killed in the recent attack in Afghanistan.

He says that "as the years march on, we must ensure that all our fellow Americans know and understand what happened here on 9/11 … and in Manhattan … and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania."

The Pentagon chief says that "it is our responsibility to remember. And it is our duty to defend our democracy."

He says, "We cannot know what the next 20 years will bring. We cannot know what new dangers they will carry. … But we do know that America will always lead."

And to the audience at the Pentagon commemoration, the defense secretary said, "We still work here. We still remember here. We still uphold our values here. With clear heads and fearless hearts."

An American flag is unfurled at the Pentagon in Washington, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, at sunrise on the morning of the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. The American flag is draped over the site of impact at the Pentagon.
An American flag is unfurled at the Pentagon in Washington, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, at sunrise on the morning of the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. The American flag is draped over the site of impact at the Pentagon. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

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WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has lauded the heroes of 9/11 — and of the years since — in a message to mark the 20th anniversary of the terror attacks.

"One thing that became clear on 9/11 — and has been clear ever since — is that America has always been home to heroes who run towards danger in order to do what is right," said Obama, who was U.S. President from 2009 to 2017.

He said the enduring image for him and his wife Michelle of that day was not the wreckage and destruction but the people. He singled out firefighters who ran up the stairs as others were running down, passengers who stormed the cockpit of their plane and volunteers who came forward across the country in the days that followed.

"Over the last 20 years, we've seen the same courage and selflessness on display again and again," Obama said.

"We saw it a decade ago when, after years of persistence, our military brought justice to Osama bin Laden. And we're seeing it today — in the doctors and nurses, bone tired, doing what they can to save lives; the servicemembers, some of whom weren't even born 20 years ago, putting themselves at risk to save Americans and help refugees find a better life; the first responders battling roaring fires and rising waters to bring families to safety."

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