Three presidents and their wives stood somberly side by side at the National September 11 Memorial, sharing a moment of silence to mark the anniversary of the nation’s worst terror attack with a display of unity.
Presidents Joe Biden, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton all gathered at the site where the World Trade Center towers fell two decades ago. They each wore blue ribbons and held their hands over their hearts as a procession marched a flag through the memorial, watched by hundreds of Americans gathered for the remembrance, some carrying photos of loved ones lost in the attacks.
Before the event began, a jet flew overhead in an eerie echo of the attacks, drawing a glance from Biden toward the sky.
Biden was a senator when hijackers commandeered four planes and executed the attack. Now he marks the 9/11 anniversary for the first time as commander in chief.
The president will spend Saturday paying his respects at the trio of sites where the planes crashed, but he left the speech-making to others.
Instead, the White House released a taped address late Friday in which 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.”
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.
Following the morning ceremony in New York City, Biden will 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 will head to the Pentagon, where the world’s mightiest military suffered an unthinkable blow to its very home.