Somber ceremonies were on Saturday held to mark 20 years since the September 11th attacks, the deadliest on US soil.
2,977 people were killed when four passenger planes were hijacked by Al Qaeda terrorists, crashing into Twin Towers (North and South Tower) of World Trade Centre in New York, the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Commemorations began in New York at Ground Zero where Twin Towers stood.
President Joe Biden and past Presidents, except Donald Trump joined the families of those who died.
At 8:46 am, the first moment of silence was observed to mark the moment when American Airlines flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of World Trade Centre.
Similar scenes took place at the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
George Bush, who was President at the time, delivered a message of unity from Shanksville, Pennsylvania where he attended the memorial to remember the passengers and crew of United Airlines flight 93.
“In the weeks and months following the 9/11 attacks, I was proud to lead an amazing, resilient, united people. When it comes to the unity of America, those days seem distant from our own,” Bush said.
In an apparent reference to the January 6 Capitol insurrection when Donald Trump supporters stormed the seat of US democracy to stop the confirmation of Joe Biden as US President elect, as well as the 9/11 hijackers, Bush offered a warning.
“We have seen growing evidence that the dangers to our country can come not only across borders but from violence that gathers within. There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home. But in their disdain for pluralism, in their disregard for human life, in their determination to defile national symbols – they are children of the same foul spirit, and it is our continuing duty to confront them,” he said.
President Bush further reflected on the 9/11 attacks after 20 years.
“I come without explanations or solutions. I can only tell you what I have seen. On America’s day of trial and grief (September 11, 2001), I saw millions of people instinctively grab for a neighbor’s hand and rally to the cause of one another. That is the America I know.”
Bush praised the passengers and crew of United Airlines flight 93 which was headed for Washington DC; possibly to hit White House or Capitol building, but hijackers got overpowered by passengers and crew onboard, and the plane eventually crashed in Shanksville, 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. The terrorists soon discovered that a random group of Americans is an exceptional group of people.”
US Vice President Kamala Harris echoed Bush’s theme of unity.
“We stand today with all of those who lost someone in 2001, and in the aftermath of the attacks. So many in our nation, too many in our nation – have deeply felt the passage of time these last 20 years,” she said.
“In a time of outright terror, we turned toward each other. In the face of a stranger, we saw a neighbor and a friend,” Harris said, noting that even though people had differences of opinion in 2001, the country still came together when it was attacked.
“That time reminded us [of] the significance and the strength of our unity as Americans.”