New York -------------------- 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 U.S. worst terror attack with a display of unity.
President Joe Biden and former Presidents 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, according to reports.
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.
The White House had on Friday released a taped address 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 Sept. 11,” he said. “Unity is our greatest strength.”
Following the ceremony in New York City, Biden visited 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.
He also visited the Pentagon, where the world’s mightiest military suffered an unthinkable blow to its very home.
Former President George W. Bush, who was reading a book to Florida schoolchildren when the planes slammed into the World Trade Center, paid his respects in Shanksville.
He said Sept. 11 showed that Americans can come together despite their differences.
“So much of our politics has become a naked appeal to anger, fear and resentment,” said the president who was in office on 9/11.
“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. That is the America know.
“It is the truest version of ourselves. It is what we have been and what we can be again.”
On the 20th anniversary of the attacks, Biden now shoulders the responsibility borne by his predecessors to prevent future tragedy, and must do so against fresh fears of a rise in terror after the United States’ hasty exit from Afghanistan, the country from which the Sept. 11 attacks were plotted.