Lawmakers gathered on Capitol Hill for a Congressional remembrance ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks. Monday’s assembly on the steps of the U.S. Capitol drew bipartisan leaders and members of the House and Senate, including the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).
“Now, it’s been a long road since 9/11. Our country has changed in ways we could have scarcely imagined back then,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in remarks. “But one thing does not change: our obligation to remember and honor every single American we lost that day.”
Back in 2001, two planes crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11. A third airliner struck the west side of the Pentagon. A fourth flight crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania after passengers fought the hijackers. Nearly 3,000 people died and some 6,000 were injured that fateful day. Since then, countless individuals have died or weathered various forms of trauma.
“Today, and every day, we reaffirm our sacred commitment to pay tribute to the fallen, the survivors and the heroes,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). She cited Congressional measures such as the 2010 James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act (reauthorized in 2015); it secured vital health services and medical benefits for those battling long-term illness tied to the attacks. In 2019, Congress enacted the Never Forget the Heroes Act in an effort to fully provide financial support and security for families and heroes from that day.
Pelosi added: “By ordering a new declassification review of documents related to the attacks, President Biden is taking a step to honor the right of every American to know the truth behind that dark day,” she said. “And this year, as we mark the end of the war in Afghanistan, our nation salutes the brave heroes in the military, intelligence and diplomatic communities who served courageously overseas.”
The Congressional remembrance followed a series of commemorative events on Saturday marking 9/11 at memorial sites in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.
President Joe Biden, First Lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff joined the families of loved ones lost in the tragedy for somber ceremonies and wreath laying. After meeting with the relatives of firefighters, Biden spoke about the need for national unity.
“Everybody says, `Biden, why do you keep insisting on trying to bring the country together?’ That’s the thing that’s going to affect our wellbeing more than anything else,” the president said. “How the rest of the world responds to us — knowing that we actually can, in fact, lead by the example of our power again. And I think we can do it. We got to do it.
Besides members of the Biden-Harris Administration, dozens of dignitaries were in attendance at the Ground Zero memorial in New York and other sites. Among them: former president Barack Obama, former First Lady Michelle Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, as well as George and Laura Bush. Former president Donald Trump reportedly visited with first responders in New York City.
In a statement honoring those who perished on September 11, former president Obama said in part:
“We reaffirm our commitment to keep a sacred trust with their families — including the children who lost parents, and who have demonstrated such extraordinary resilience. But this anniversary is also about reflecting on what we’ve learned in the 20 years since that awful morning,” he said. “That list of lessons is long and growing. But one thing that became clear on 9/11 – and has been clear ever since – is that America has always been home to heroes who run towards danger in order to do what is right.”
Obama cited first responders, members of the U.S. military and today’s health care workers fighting Covid-19 as examples of acts of service. “They represent what is best in America, and what can and should bring us together. 9/11 reminded us how so many Americans give of themselves in extraordinary ways – not just in moments of great crisis, but every single day. Let’s never forget that, and let’s never take them for granted.”