President Joe Biden spoke on restoring national unity and preserving democracy during his visit to the Shanksville, Pennsylvania, volunteer fire station Saturday, referencing his Republican presidential predecessors on the 20th anniversary of the 2001 terror attacks.
Biden praised former President George W. Bush’s speech at the Flight 93 Memorial in Pennsylvania, according to pool reports, adding: “A number of serious Republicans, in the past and a few who are still around, call me and tell me, what can I do to help? Because they get it, too."
In his earlier address, Bush had contrasted increasing divisions across the country today with the spirit shown after the 9/11 attacks, saying: "So much of our politics has become a naked appeal to anger, fear and resentment. 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.”
Biden mentioned that he took photos with boys who were wearing Trump hats at the firehouse.
“Are we going to, in the next four, five, six, ten years, demonstrate that democracies can work, or not?” he said, before voicing disappointment at the tenor of current political debates, including “the stuff that’s coming out of Florida.”
Former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama joined Biden earlier at a commemorative ceremony at ground zero in New York City. Former President Donald Trump visited New York City police officers and firefighters.
Vice President Kamala Harris, who spoke at the memorial, also touched on themes of unity, referencing the efforts of the passengers who attempted to retake the hijacked United flight over Pennsylvania 20 years ago.
“They did not focus on what may separate us,” she said. “They focused on what we all share: on the humanity we all share. In a matter of minutes, in the most dire of circumstances, the 40 responded as one. They fought for their own lives and to save the lives of countless others at our nation’s Capitol.”
United Airlines Flight 93 was hijacked by four members of al Qaeda and ultimately crashed in a field in Shanksville after passengers and crew members fought to reclaim control of the airplane. Thirty seven passengers and seven crew members were killed.
Biden referenced those passengers’ efforts on his visit to the firehouse.
“It’s one thing to say, I know I should step up, it’s another thing to do it. That’s genuine heroism,” he said.
Later Saturday, Biden attended a wreath-laying ceremony at the Pentagon, where 184 people died in another plane crash on September 11. He was accompanied by first lady Jill Biden, Harris, second gentleman Doug Emhoff, Gen. Mark Milley and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.