Biden to visit all three 9/11 memorial sites to mark 20th anniversary of attacks

Bidens will visit Lower Manhattan, Pentagon, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania to commemorate those lost

Oliver O'Connell
New York
Saturday 04 September 2021 22:02 BST
Related Video: BBC trailer for 9/11 20th anniversary documentaries
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President Joe Biden will visit all three 9/11 memorial sites to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US.

Visits are planned to ground zero in New York City, the Pentagon, and the memorial outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where United Flight 93 was forced down, the White House announced on Saturday.

The schedule will allow the president and First Lady Jill Biden to pay their respects to the nearly 3,000 people killed that day.

The White House says that Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff will also travel to Shanksville, Pennsylvania, for a separate event.

They will then join Mr and Mrs Biden at the Pentagon.

Mr Biden’s schedule on the 20th anniversary of the attacks is similar to the itinerary of former President Barack Obama’s on the 10th anniversary of the attacks in 2011.

The Obamas’ visit to Lower Manhattan coincided with the opening of the memorial on the site where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once stood.

Next Saturday’s anniversary falls in the shadow of the abrupt end of the nearly two-decade-long US war in Afghanistan less than two weeks prior.

The war was launched in the weeks after the 9/11 attacks to retaliate against al-Qaeda’s base in the country and the Taliban government, who provided the group with a safe haven in which to operate.

While Mr Biden’s decision to end the conflict has broad public support in the US, the chaotic evacuation of US troops, Afghan allies, and third-country nationals in the second half of August has been widely criticised.

An early failure to properly secure Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul; the lack of any ability to project security beyond the perimeter of the airfield; and the subsequent catastrophic terror attack on one of the gates, have all been condemned in the US and abroad.

Nevertheless, the airlift was the largest in US history and succeeded in bringing more than 120,000 people out of Afghanistan in 17 days.

With the anniversary of 9/11 fast approaching, on Friday Mr Biden directed a declassification review of government documents related to the 11 September 2001 attacks. The order is a gesture toward victims’ families who have long sought the records in hopes of implicating senior Saudi government officials.

The Department of Justice will lead the process and the attorney general has six months in which to complete the review, including providing reasons why certain documents cannot be declassified.

Mr Biden had promised transparency relating to the matter during his 2020 campaign. When no action was taken once in office, 9/11 families brought their conflict with the government over what classified information could be made public into the open.

In August, 1,800 relatives, survivors, and first responders said they would object to the president’s participation in 9/11 memorial events if the documents remained classified. Mr Biden was then moved to honour the commitment he had made regarding declassification and transparency.

In a statement concerning the order released on Friday, the president said: “We must never forget the enduring pain of the families and loved ones of the 2,977 innocent people who were killed during the worst terrorist attack on America in our history. For them, it was not only a national and international tragedy. It was a personal devastation.”

He concluded: “My heart continues to be with the 9/11 families who are suffering, and my administration will continue to engage respectfully with members of this community. I welcome their voices and insight as we chart a way forward.”

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