Six moments of silence were held Saturday to mark the times of the 9/11 attacks as President Joe Biden and other leaders honored the heroes and remembered those who tragically died 20 years ago on one of America’s darkest days.
Biden and first lady Jill Biden joined a large crowd including victims’ families at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum where the twin towers once stood, to observe the first at 8:46 a.m. ET.
That marked the time that Al Qaeda terrorists crashed American Airlines Flight 11 into the north tower of New York’s World Trade Center two decades ago.
They were joined by former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton as well as several national and state leaders, members of the emergency services and large crowds.
Just 23 minutes later, a second moment of silence was held at the same time that American Airlines Flight 175 hit the south tower.
After both moments, family members read out the names of those killed in the 9/11 attacks and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Bruce Springsteen also performed “I’ll See You in My Dreams.”
Meanwhile at the Pentagon, the first of a number of events began shortly before 7 a.m. ET. As the national anthem rang out, a flag was unfurled down the side of the building, which was hit that day.
A third moment of silence was held at 9:37 a.m. ET, to remember those who lost their lives when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon. Afterward, a rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” was performed for the crowd followed by more names being read of those who died.
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More moments of silence were held to mark when the south tower collapsed at 9:59 a.m. ET and when the neighboring north tower crumbled to the ground at 10:28 a.m.
Outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania, a moment of silence was held at 10:03 a.m. ET for the heroic passengers who fought terrorists aboard United Airlines Flight 93 and prevented the plane from reaching Washington.
Family members read the names of their loved ones as a bell rang.
Former President George W. Bush, who was reading a book to Florida schoolchildren when the planes hit, gave a speech near the rural town.
“Twenty years ago we all found in different ways, in different places, but all at the same moment, that our lives would be changed forever. The world was loud with carnage and sirens, and then quiet with missing voices that would never be heard again,” he said. “These lives remain precious to our country and infinitely precious to many of you. Today we remember your loss, we share your sorrow and we honor the men and woman you have loved for so long and so well.”
Bush went on to say that the “actions of an enemy revealed the spirit of a people.”
“In these memories, the passengers and crew of Flight 93 must always have an honored place. Here the intended targets became the instruments of rescue and many who are now alive owe a vast, unconscious debt to the defiance displayed in the skies above this field,” he said.
Vice President Kamala Harris gave remarks around 10:45 a.m. ET.
“We stand today with all those who lost someone on Sept. 11, 2001, and in the aftermath of the attacks,” she said. “So many in our nation, too many in our nation, have deeply felt the passage of time these last 20 years.”
She continued: “We are gathered today on hallowed ground, at this place that has been sanctified by sacrifice to honor the heroism that the 40 passengers and crew members showed in the face of grave terrorism.”
“The 40 passengers and crew members of Flight 93, as we all know, they didn’t know each other, most of them didn’t know each other. They were different people from different places,” Harris said. “But they did not focus on what may separate us. … In a matter of minutes, in the most dire of circumstances, the 40 responded as one.”
On Friday, Biden made an appeal to the nation to reclaim the spirit of cooperation that evolved in the days following 9/11.
In a taped address by the White House, Biden spoke of a “true sense of national unity” that emerged after the attacks, adding that he saw “heroism everywhere — in places expected and unexpected.”
“To me that’s the central lesson of Sept. 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.
He is the fourth president to console the nation on the anniversary of that dark day, one that has shaped many of the most consequential domestic and foreign policy decisions made by the chief executives over the past two decades.
He will conclude official events by laying a wreath at the Pentagon later in the afternoon.