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As NYC marks 22nd anniversary of 9/11 attacks, Biden calls for 'unity' in Alaska speech

Deb Borza, daughter of Flight 93 victim Deora Frances Bodley, pauses and kisses the name of her mother before the public wreath laying service at the Flight 93 National Memorial on Monday near Shanksville, Penn. Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI
Deb Borza, daughter of Flight 93 victim Deora Frances Bodley, pauses and kisses the name of her mother before the public wreath laying service at the Flight 93 National Memorial on Monday near Shanksville, Penn. Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI

Sept. 11 (UPI) -- New York City held memorial ceremonies Monday to mark 22 years since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, as President Joe Biden urged the country to "continue to stand united" in a speech to military members, first responders and their families in Alaska.

As a "Tribute in Light" took place at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in lower Manhattan, prominent Democrats and Republicans joined Monday's memorial in a rare show of unity at Ground Zero. Vice President Kamala Harris, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, NYC Mayor Eric Adams, former NYC Mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg, Gov. Kathy Hochul and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer were all in attendance with many sharing their own tributes online.

"Twenty-two years ago, nineteen terrorists took 2,977 innocent lives in the deadliest attack against America in our history. We will never forget," DeSantis wrote in a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

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"We will never forget the 2,977 lives lost twenty-two years ago today at Ground Zero, Shanksville, and the Pentagon," Harris wrote in a post on X.

Police and Firefighters from New York City display the American flat at the beginning of the Commemoration Ceremony at the National September 11th Memorial and Museum in New York City on Monday, September 11, 2023. Photo by Peter Foley/UPI
Police and Firefighters from New York City display the American flat at the beginning of the Commemoration Ceremony at the National September 11th Memorial and Museum in New York City on Monday, September 11, 2023. Photo by Peter Foley/UPI

President Joe Biden delivered remarks to service members, first responders, and their families at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage on Monday as he made his way back from the G20 in India.

"On this day 22 years ago from this base, we were scrambling on high alert to escort planes through the airspace," Biden said. "Alaskan communities opened their doors to stranded passengers."

New York City Mayor Eric Adams (C) and former mayor Michael Bloomberg (L) attend the 911 Commemoration Ceremony at the National September 11th Memorial and Museum in New York City on Monday. Photo by Peter Foley/UPI
New York City Mayor Eric Adams (C) and former mayor Michael Bloomberg (L) attend the 911 Commemoration Ceremony at the National September 11th Memorial and Museum in New York City on Monday. Photo by Peter Foley/UPI

"I join you on this solemn day to renew our sacred vow. Never forget. Never forget. We never forget," the president told the group. "Each of those precious lives were stolen too soon when evil attacked."

Biden also talked about each of the sites hit during the attacks in New York, in Shanksville, Pa., and at the Pentagon.

Family members of the victims read the names of the people who perished at the World Trade Center during the 911 Commemoration Ceremony at the National September 11th Memorial and Museum in New York City on Monday, September 11, 2023. Photo by Peter Foley/UPI
Family members of the victims read the names of the people who perished at the World Trade Center during the 911 Commemoration Ceremony at the National September 11th Memorial and Museum in New York City on Monday, September 11, 2023. Photo by Peter Foley/UPI

"I spent many 9/11's on those hallowed grounds to bear witness and remember those we lost, " Biden said, as he explained he was returning from the G20 Summit in India "where we strengthened America's leadership on the global stage," in addition to a trip to Vietnam. This is the first 9/11 anniversary since the attacks that the U.S. president has not spoken at one of the sites.

"These trips are an essential 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 to our security," Biden added.

A wreath is placed at the boulder that marks the crash site of Flight 93 following the formal ceremony at the Flight 93 National Memorial during the 22nd memorial observance on Monday, September 11, 2023 near Shanksville, Penn. Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI
A wreath is placed at the boulder that marks the crash site of Flight 93 following the formal ceremony at the Flight 93 National Memorial during the 22nd memorial observance on Monday, September 11, 2023 near Shanksville, Penn. Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI

"The terrorists stole 2,977 souls that day," Biden said. "But those terrorists could not touch what any enemy ever could, and that was the soul of America."

"We must not succumb to the poisonous politics of difference and division," Biden urged. "We must never allow ourselves to be pulled apart by petty manufactured grievances. We must continue to stand united."

An unidentified visitor jogs pass the Wall of Names and up the hill through a field of wildflowers with an American flag after the public wreath-laying service at the Flight 93 National Memorial on Monday near Shanksville, Penn., on Monday. Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI
An unidentified visitor jogs pass the Wall of Names and up the hill through a field of wildflowers with an American flag after the public wreath-laying service at the Flight 93 National Memorial on Monday near Shanksville, Penn., on Monday. Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI

Monday's solemn gathering in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan has been held every year since hijackers crashed two jetliners into the World Trade Center, and another into the side of the Pentagon, while a fourth plane crashed in a Pennsylvania field after passengers staged a mutiny.

The nation was devastated as nearly 3,000 people were killed in the worst-ever terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

Members of the armed services look on as a plane takes off over a U.S. flag hanging from the Pentagon to mark the 22nd anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks there in Arlington, Va., on Monday. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI
Members of the armed services look on as a plane takes off over a U.S. flag hanging from the Pentagon to mark the 22nd anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks there in Arlington, Va., on Monday. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI

The memorial service where the iconic towers once stood includes a reading of victims' names by surviving family members, and six moments of silence to mark the exact times when the two passenger jets slammed into the World Trade Center, when both towers collapsed, when a plane struck the Pentagon, and when Flight 93 crashed.

"It's more important than ever that we never forget all those we lost and how New York stood strong in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks," said Matthew Ketschke, the president for Con Edison utilities of New York, which has rallied state funding to provide power to the memorial since 2002. "For 200 years, Con Edison has been a constant through our city's brightest days and its darkest moments. Each year, the Tribute in Light is an iconic symbol of that strength, resilience, and New York's forward progress."

In a statement from the White House last week, President Biden proclaimed Sept. 8-10 as "National Days of Prayer and Remembrance," -- urging Americans to mark the anniversary with contemplative observances such as memorial services, the ringing of church bells and candlelight vigils.

Monday's memorial service also comes days after New York City's Chief Medical Examiner Jason Graham announced that DNA helped to identify the remains of two 9/11 victims who were nameless for more than two decades, while 1,104 victims remain unidentified, according to mayor Adams.

A number of separate 9/11 vigils and tributes, including a 5K run and walk, were planned in the coming days across New York's five boroughs.

At dusk Monday, twin beams of blue light rising four miles from Ground Zero lit up the Manhattan skyline until dawn Tuesday.

The New York City Fire Museum held a wreath-laying ceremony at the museum to honor the 343 city firefighters who died while racing into the burning buildings to save lives.

Hochul ordered flags to be flown at half-staff at all state government buildings, while 16 state landmarks, including the Empire State Building and Penn Station, will be lit in blue to honor the dead.

Elsewhere, New York Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado attended an afternoon interfaith remembrance service at St. Peter's Church, where the New York Port Authority honored 84 employees who died in the attacks, as well as those who died in the 1993 terror bombing at the World Trade Center.

Staten Island residents gathered to honor the dead at the "Postcards" memorial site on the North Shore Waterfront Esplanade, where 274 plaques are displayed with the names, birthdays, job titles and profile silhouettes of those lost from the borough.

A day earlier, survivors and relatives of victims who were sickened or died from 9/11-related illnesses, including first responders and rescue and recovery workers, were honored at the site as part of an annual Community Day.

The former World Trade Center site, memorialized in 2002, includes a monument of black marble inscribed with the names of thousands who died, as well as two large, square reflecting pools, in the footprints of the original twin towers.