President Biden marked the 22nd anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on Monday with a message of unity, saying Americans must protect democratic ideals.
Mr. Biden delivered remarks from a military base in Alaska, where he stopped on his way home from a diplomatic trip to Asia so that he could commemorate the anniversary on U.S. soil.
“It shouldn’t take a national tragedy to remind us of the power of national unity,” he told a crowd of service members, first responders and their families. “That’s how we truly honor those we lost on 9/11.”
“It’s more important than ever that we come together around the principle of American democracy, regardless of our political backgrounds,” he said. “We must not succumb to the poisonous politics of difference and division. We must never allow ourselves to be pulled apart by petty manufactured grievances.”
Mr. Biden recalled how he stood at ground zero after the attacks, looking at the wreckage that resembled the “gates of hell.” But he said he was struck by the courage he witnessed in the days and years after.
He cited first responders who ran into infernos and breathed in toxins at ground zero, the civilians running into the Pentagon to save their colleagues and the “patriot passengers” who fought back against the terrorists who hijacked United Flight 93, which crashed outside Shanksville, Pa.
Mr. Biden also praised the “9/11 generation” that deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq, and that “followed Osama bin Laden to the end of the earth and sent him to the gates of hell 12 years ago.”
American presidents usually mark the anniversary at the attack sites, but Mr. Biden was returning to Washington on Monday after a trip to India for the Group of 20 summit and a stop in Vietnam.
Mr. Biden said that he had been thinking during his travels about the 2,977 lives lost at the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon and near Shanksville.
“These trips are a central part of how we’re going to ensure the United States is flanked by the broadest array of allies and partners who will stand with us and deter any threat toward security, to build a world that is safer for all of our children,” Mr. Biden said.
Earlier in the day, Vice President Kamala Harris visited the National September 11 Memorial in New York City, and Jill Biden, the first lady, laid a wreath at the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial in Arlington, Va.
Mr. Biden concluded his remarks by recalling his visit to a memorial in Hanoi dedicated to the military service of Senator John McCain, and how the two men fought on the Senate floor for years. But in the end, the president said, he put “duty to country first,” and his final words to Mr. Biden were “I love you.”
“Let us honor Sept. 11 by renewing our faith in one another,” he said. “Let us remember who we are as a nation.”