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Biden says Americans have ‘duty’ to stand up for democracy at 9/11 Pentagon ceremony

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President Biden paid tribute to those lost in the 9/11 terror attacks at the Pentagon on Sunday, calling for renewed national unity and determination in defense of democracy.

Speaking in a light rain in the nation’s capital, Biden solemnly commemorated the dead and their families.

“For all those of you who lost someone 21 years is both a lifetime and no time at all,” he said. “It is good to remember. These memories help us heal. But they can also open up the hurt and take us back to that moment when the grief was so raw.”

Biden said the deadly attacks altered the course of American history, but also revealed the country’s inner strength and resolve.

“The American story itself changed that day,” he said. “What we will not change, what we cannot change and never will is the character of this nation that the terrorists thought they could wound. What is that character? The character of sacrifice and love, of generosity and grace, of strength and resilience.”

He also lauded the country’s persistence and patience in bringing those responsible to justice, noting the killings of both Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri.

President Biden participates in a wreath-laying ceremony commemorating the 21st anniversary of the crash of American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon.
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
Flowers are visible on one of the benches at the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial outside the Pentagon.
Flowers are visible on one of the benches at the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial outside the Pentagon.
Susan Walsh/AP
A woman reacts during a ceremony to honor victims of the September 11, 2001, attacks at the Pentagon.
A woman cries during a ceremony to honor victims of the September 11, 2001, attacks at the Pentagon.
Cheriss May/REUTERS

“What was destroyed we have repaired,” he said. “What was threatened we fortified. The indomitable spirit has never ever wavered.”

Biden called on Americans to rediscover the collective purpose that emerged in the wake of the attacks.

“In the midst of these dark days we dug deep,” he said. “We cared for each other and we came together. We regained the light of reaching out to one another and finding something all too rare, a true sense of national unity. To me, that’s the greatest lesson of September 11.”

Joe Biden.
“We have an obligation, a duty, a responsibility to preserve and protect our democracy,” President Biden said.
Susan Walsh/AP

While the speech was largely retrospective, Biden called on Americans to also look ahead to future challenges.

“On this day it is not about the past, it is about the future,” he said. “We have an obligation, a duty, a responsibility to preserve and protect our democracy. The very democracy that guarantees the rights of freedom those those terrorist on 9/11 sought to bury in the burning fire of smoke and ash.”

Realizing that goal, he said, will require a greater national unification.

“We will meet the significant responsibility to secure our democracy together as one America, a United States of America,” he said.

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