The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)

⏩ Biden to mark 9/11 amid new terror fear.


NEW YORK — He will again make the ritual journey to sacred American landmarks of loss. He will once more bow his head in silent prayer. He will repeat words of comfort for those whose lives changed forever on that brilliant September day two decades ago.

But this time, Joe Biden will hold the rank of commander in chief as he marks the anniversar­y of the nation’s worst terror attack. Now, he shoulders the responsibi­lity borne by previous presidents to prevent future tragedy, and must do so against fresh fears of a rise in terror after the United States’ exit from the country from which the September 11th attacks were launched.

This 9/11 comes little more than two weeks after a suicide bomber in Kabul killed 13 U.S. service members as the military concluded its withdrawal from Afghanista­n. And as Afghanista­n returns to Taliban rule, there are fresh concerns that the country could again be a launching pad for attacks that Biden’s government will be charged with preventing.

But for Biden, like his predecesso­rs, the 9/11 anniversar­y can also present an opportunit­y to try to reclaim the sense of national unity that followed the attacks, a spirt long since faded amid the country’s divisive politics.

“For Biden, it’s a moment for people to see him not as Democratic president, but as president of the United States of America,” said Robert Gibbs, who served as President Barack Obama’s press secretary.

“The American people are somewhat conflicted about what they have seen out of Afghanista­n the last couple of weeks,” Gibbs said. “For Biden, it’s a moment to try to reset some of that. Remind people of what it is to be commander in chief and what it means to be the leader of the country at a moment of such significan­ce.”

The president will commemorat­e the solemn anniversar­y on Saturday by paying his respects at the trio of sites where the hijacked planes struck, puncturing the United States’ air of invincibil­ity and resulting in the deaths of 3,000 Americans.

First will be a stop in New York City, where the twin towers of the World Trade Center were toppled as a horrified world watched on television. Then, a field near Shanksvill­e, Pennsylvan­ia, where a plane fell from the sky after heroic passengers fought terrorists to prevent it from reaching its Washington destinatio­n. And finally, the Pentagon, where the world’s mightiest military suffered an unthinkabl­e blow to its very home.

Biden’s task, like his predecesso­rs before him, will be mark the moment with a mix of grief and resolve. A man who has suffered personal tragedy, Biden speaks of loss with power and eloquence, and he has repeatedly addressed the grief caused by the COVID-19 pandemic that has claimed more than 600,000 lives across the country.

While the ceremonies on Saturday don’t call for him to make public remarks, the White House said Biden would release a videotaped message.

“We all remember distinctly that day and how much it’s impacted us and has impacted us for the last several decades,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said this week. “That’s true for him as well.”

Afghanista­n will shadow the day.

Osama Bin Laden used that nation to mastermind the 2001 attacks, ushering in an expanded era of terror attacks on soft targets — hotels, office buildings, nightclubs — in cities across the West. Al-Qaeda was routed from Afghanista­n in the months after September 11. But other groups have taken up the cause, including the Islamic State group in Afghanista­n, believed to be responsibl­e for the Kabul attack last month.

Biden has long argued that the United States’ military mission in Afghanista­n was over, that the U.S. needed to stop allowing its soldiers to die there. But for some, the return of the Taliban to power, and the terror threat it could produce, has made the 20th anniversar­y a bitter and worrisome one.

Biden will be the fourth president to console the nation on the anniversar­y of that dark day, one that has shaped many of the most consequent­ial domestic and foreign policy decisions made by the chief executives over the past two decades.

On Saturday, as Biden visits all three sites, Bush will pay his respects in Shanksvill­e while Obama will do the same in New York. Trump, meanwhile, will be delivering ringside commentary at a boxing match at a casino in Hollywood, Fla.

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