SHANKSVILLE, Pa. – President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump paid solemn tributes here Friday to the 40 people who died aboard United Airlines Flight 93 when it crashed into an open field in rural Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001.
Under cloudy skies on a dewy morning, Trump, speaking softly, delivered a message of remembrance at the Flight 93 National Memorial to the families of the victims, including those lost in the terrorist attacks in New York and at the Pentagon.
“Today every heartbeat in America is wedded to yours,” Trump 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 said the al-Qaida attacks were orchestrated and executed by “radical Islamic terrorists,” and he recounted his conquests in the war against Islamic State terrorists, including the January killing of Qasem Soleimani.
With the nation bitterly divided and the election less than two months away, Trump paused his caustic campaign rhetoric to try to sound a note of unity. He recalled how the nation came together in the days following the attacks 19 years ago.
“We were united by our conviction that America was the world’s most exceptional country, blessed with the most incredible heroes, and that this was a land worth defending with our very last breath,” Trump said. “It was a unity based on love for our families, care for our neighbors, loyalty to our fellow citizens, pride in our flag, gratitude for our police and first responders, faith in God – and a refusal to bend our will to the depraved forces of violence, intimidation, oppression and evil.”
Both Trump and Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, scheduled visits here Friday.
On Friday morning, at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in New York City, Biden at one point moved close to comfort a woman in a wheelchair who said her son died at age 43.
She held an image in her lap, which Biden took and examined, reflecting on losing his own son, Beau.
“It never goes away,” Biden said. The woman repeated the phrase, as names of those who died on Sept. 11, 2001, were read aloud over the speakers.
One of Biden’s hallmarks during his pre-coronavirus campaign was his interactions with Americans, which took place one-on-one after events. But he has had almost none of those since concerns over spreading the virus have limited his ability to hold such intimate conversations where, like he did Friday morning, he leans in close, albeit now with a mask.
The woman, 90, and perhaps joking, told Biden she was entering her “last year,” at which point her daughter suggested she knock it off. “You don’t know that, Mom!” she said. “You’re still kicking!”
“You and I will be here next year,” Biden assured the woman.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D, walked up to them and told the woman he didn’t believe she’s 90, at which point he learned she also is Italian American.
“Oh,” he said, unsurprised. “She’s got that Italian blood. You see how young?”
“I may be Irish,” Biden said. “But I’m not stupid.” He motioned to Jill Biden and mentioned her original family name, Giacoppa, which her Italian grandfather had changed.
Then, Cuomo looked back at the 90-year-old woman and motioned at Biden.
“I told you he was smart!” he said.
Biden and his wife, Jill, briefly greeted Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, in New York, with elbow bumps and shoulder touches. Biden arrived at Ground Zero with Cuomo and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
After Pence’s motorcade pulled up to the World Trade Center memorial site, he chatted with former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, D.
Pence and his wife then took their positions for the ceremony with Bloomberg standing between the Bidens and the Pences.