Bush, Harris point to unity after 9/11 in memorial speeches

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Bush, Harris point to unity after 9/11 in memorial speeches

The chimes of the Bells of Remembrance at the memorial service for the victims and heroes of Flight 93 in Shanksville, PA, was followed Saturday by a thunderous speech on a divided nation from former President George W. Bush.

“In the weeks and months following the 9/11 attacks, I was proud to lead an amazing, resilient, united people. When it comes to the unity of America, those days seem distant from our own,” Bush said.

“[Malignant forces seem] at work in our common life that turns every disagreement into an argument, and every argument into a clash of cultures,” the 43rd president said. “So much of our politics has become a naked appeal to anger, fear and resentment. That leaves us worried about our nation and our future together.”

In an apparent reference to the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection as well as the 9/11 hijackers, the former president offered a warning:

“We have seen growing evidence that the dangers to our country can come not only across borders but from violence that gathers within,” Bush said. “There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home. But in their disdain for pluralism, in their disregard for human life, in their determination to defile national symbols — they are children of the same foul spirit, and it is our continuing duty to confront them.

“I come without explanations or solutions,” he continued. “I can only tell you what I’ve seen. On America’s day of trial and grief, I saw millions of people instinctively grab for a neighbor’s hand and rally to the cause of one another. That is the America I know.

“Twenty years ago, terrorists chose a random group of Americans on a routine flight to be collateral damage in a spectacular act of terror. The 33 passengers and seven crew of Flight 93 could have been any group of citizens selected by fate. In a sense, they stood in for us all. The terrorists soon discovered that a random group of Americans is an exceptional group of people.

“This is not mere nostalgia,” Bush insisted. “It is the truest version of ourselves. It is what we have been and what we can be again.

US Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during a 9/11 commemoration at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania on September 11, 2021. - America marked the 20th anniversary of 9/11 Saturday with solemn ceremonies given added poignancy by the recent chaotic withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and return to power of the Taliban.
Vice President Harris expressed Bush’s same message of unity.
AFP via Getty Images

“Whenever we need hope and inspiration, we can look to the skies and remember.”

United Airlines Flight 93, the fourth hijacked plane, was headed to Washington to attack the Capitol or White House, but crashed into the field east of Pittsburgh after the 40 passengers and crew took action to stop the terrorists. The plane was just 18 minutes from Washington.

Memorial officials on Saturday read the names of the passengers and crew and rang bells for each person at the Flight 93 National Memorial. “It is truly fitting that we pause to remember those individuals who lost their lives and save so many when flight 93 crashed into the hallowed ground,” said Stephen Clark, superintendent of the National Parks of Western Pennsylvania, The Associated Press reported.

Vice President Kamala Harris also spoke. “We stand today with all of those who lost someone in 2001, and in the aftermath of the attacks,” she said. “So many in our nation — too many in our nation — have deeply felt the passage of time these last 20 years.

“Every birthday your loved one missed. Every holiday, Every time her favorite team won or his favorite song came on the radio. Every time you’ve tucked in your children, or dropped them off at college. You have felt every day, every week and every year that has passed these 20 years.”

Harris also echoed Bush’s theme of unity.

“In a time of outright terror, we turned toward each other. In the face of a stranger, we saw a neighbor and a friend,” Harris said, noting that even though people had differences of opinion in 2001, the country still came together when it was attacked. “That time reminded us [of] the significance and the strength of our unity as Americans.”

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