President Donald Trump paid tribute to the nearly 3,000 people killed in the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history Friday morning during a trip to Shanksville, Pennsylvania, as Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden planned to visit the crash site in the afternoon.
The president and First Lady Melania Trump attended a morning service at the Flight 93 memorial in Shanksville, where 40 passengers and crew members died after battling hijackers aboard a United Airlines jet 19 years ago during the 9/11 attacks.
Standing in front of flags representing the nationalities of those killed on the flight, the president said the heroes of Flight 93 are an “everlasting reminder that no matter the danger, no matter the threat, no matter the odds, America will always rise up, stand tall and fight back.”
Trump extended the “unwavering love, support and devotion of all Americans” to all family members of 9/11 victims. He said the courage and resolve of those killed on Flight 93 was the “only thing that stood between the enemy and a deadly strike at the heart of American Democracy.”
Passengers and crew members on Flight 93 prevented terrorists from reaching their planned target, the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C.
“When terrorists raced to destroy the seat of our democracy, the 40 on Flight 93 did the most American of things,” Trump said. “They took a vote and then they acted. Together they charged the cockpit, they confronted the pure evil and in their last act on this earth, they saved our Capitol.”
Trump went on to express the nation’s “undying loyalty” to the nearly 6 million Americans who enlisted in the Armed Forces since the 9/11 attacks.
“America will never relent in pursuing terrorists that threaten our people,” Trump said.
He singled out the killings last year of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Iranian major general Qasem Soleimani. Trump did not mention the killing of Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, who was killed during the Obama administration.
Names of those killed in Shanksville were read aloud. Upon landing in Pennsylvania, the Trumps held a moment of silence in the conference room cabin of Air Force One at 8:46 a.m. to commemorate the first plane that hit the World Trade Center.
“God bless America,” White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said when the moment of silence concluded. The president repeated, “God bless America.”
The National Park Service, which co-hosts the annual memorial event in Pennsylvania, planned a smaller private service this year to minimize the spread of coronavirus. The 2,200-acre memorial is in a field in western Pennsylvania, a key battleground state in the presidential campaign.
In addition to Flight 93, three other hijacked flights from United and American Airlines hit the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Northern Virginia.
Earlier in the day, Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, traveled to New York City to attend the 9/11 Memorial & Museum’s 19th anniversary commemoration ceremony. The Bidens then traveled to Shanksville in the afternoon to pay their respects to the victims of nation’s deadliest terrorist attack.
“I’m not gonna make any news today,” Biden told reporters before his trip to New York. “I’m not gonna talk about anything other than 9/11. We took all our advertising down, it’s a solemn day, and that’s how we’re going to keep it.“
During the visit to the old World Trade Center site in New York, Biden spoke and touched elbows with Vice President Mike Pence, who was there with second lady Karen Pence.
“Like a generation once did in the wake of Pearl Harbor, this generation of Americans bore the burden that history placed on our shoulders that day,” Biden said in a statement. “And this year, we mark the anniversary of 9/11 in the midst of another crisis that compels us to summon the best of the American people in the face of unconscionable, inconceivable loss — a crisis that has already taken nearly 200,000 Americans, testing our resolve and character with each passing day. “
As the names of those killed in the World Trade Center attacks were read aloud, Biden comforted an elderly woman in a wheelchair who was holding a picture of her son. She told Biden he was 43 years old when he died. Biden took the photo, looked it over and reflected on losing his own son, Beau Biden, who died of brain cancer in 2015.
“It never goes away,” Biden said. She repeated his words.
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Trump and Biden avoided appearing together in Shanksville.
Sen. Kamala Harris, the Democratic nominee for vice president, will travel to Fairfax, Virginia, with her husband Doug Emhoff on Friday. Harris will deliver remarks at a remembrance ceremony.
Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.