Former President George W. Bush used his 9/11 anniversary speech in Shanksville, Pennsylvania to condemn ‘violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home,’ calling them ‘children of the same foul spirit.’
Bush also used his address to tell veterans and servicemembers that their sacrifices in the War on Teror weren’t for nothing.
And the former leader pushed the nation to display the same sort of unity that was present in the days following the September 11, 2001 attacks.
‘Many Americans struggled to understand why an enemy would hate us with such zeal,’ Bush said. ‘The security measure incorporated into our lives are both sources of comfort and reminders of our vulnerability. And we have seen growing evidence that the dangers to our country can come not only across borders but from violence that gathers within.’
The former Republican president noted that there is ‘little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home’ except for their ‘disregard of 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,’ Bush said – an apparent refrence to both the 9/11 hijackers and the January 6 Capitol insurrectionists.
President George W. Bush used his speech in Shanksville to talk about violent extremism at home
Former First Lady Laura Bush (left) and former President George W. Bush hold hands prior to his speech Saturday in Shanksville, Pennsylvania
Bush also aimed to assuage concerns voiced by veterans and servicemembers that their time in Afghanistan was all for naught – with the Taliban quickly taking over the country ahead of President Joe Biden’s August 31 messy pull-out.
‘One thing is certain, we owe an assurance to all who have fought our nation’s most recent battles,’ Bush said. ‘Let me speak directly to veterans and people in uniform.’
‘You have shielded your fellow citizens from danger. You have defended the beliefs of your country and advanced the rights of the downtrodden. You have been the face of hope and mercy in dark places. You have been a force of good in the world,’ said the former commander-in-chief.
Nothing that has followed, nothing, can tarnish your honor or diminish your accomplishments,’ Bush stated. ‘To you and to the honor of dead, our country is forever grateful.’
Bush recalled that in the weeks following the 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,’ he said. ‘Malign force seems at work in our common life. That turns every disagreement into an argument and every argument into a clash of cultures.’
‘So much of our politics has become a naked appeal to anger, fear and resentment,’ he continued. ‘That leaves us worried about our nation and our future together.’
Bush said that he had come to Pennsylvania ‘without explanations or solutions.’
‘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,’ Bush said to applause.
‘At a time when religious bigotry might have flowed freely, I saw Americans reject prejudice and embrace people of Muslim faith. That is the nation I know,’ he said.
‘At a time when nativism could have stirred hatred and violence against people perceived as outsiders, I saw Americans reaffirm their welcome to immigrants and refugees. That is the nation I know,’ Bush continued.
Bush also defended millennials, who he said were described as ‘individualistic and decadent,’ saying they embraced an ‘ethic of service’ and ‘selfless action.’
‘This is not mere nostalgia – it is the truest version of ourselves,’ he said. ‘It is what we have been. And what we can be again.’
During Bush’s speech, President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden were en route to Shanksville, as they’ll go to all three sites Saturday where people perished on 9/11.
Earlier President Biden and the first lady attended the New York City ceremony at Ground Zero.
Biden didn’t speak at the ceremony in New York – as he chose to release a video Friday sharing his reflections instead.
Members of Congress, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, also attended the New York memorial service.
President Joe Biden gazes upward as he attends Saturday’s 9/11 memorial ceremony alongside Dr. Jill Biden, the Clintons, the Obamas and other elected officials
President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden depart New York City Saturday en route to Shanksville, Pennsylvania where the president will lay a wreath to mark the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks
From left: Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, President Joe Biden, First Lady Jill Biden, Michael Bloomberg, Diana Taylor, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer place their hands on their hearts at the beginning of the 9/11 ceremony
The One World Trade Center is seen during the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks in New York
President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden arrive at the National September 11 Memorial in New York on Saturday
President Joe Biden is captured pulling down his mask to greet someone at Saturday’s 9/11 memorial ceremony in New York
Former President George W. Bush (right) and former First Lady Laura Bush attended the memorial service Saturday in Shanksville, Pennsylvania
Vice President Kamala Harris (left) arrives at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania with her husband Doug Emhoff (center left) and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland (center right)
Vice President Kamala Harris was attending Saturday morning’s ceremony in Shanksville – and then join up with Biden at the Pentagon.
Former President George W. Bush, who was president during the attacks, will deliver remarks in Shanksville. Former First Lady Laura Bush was at his side at the Flight 93 National Memorial, which has grown out of the southwest Pennsylvania field where the fourth plane crashed.
Former President Donald Trump said on Fox News on Friday that he will travel to Ground Zero to mark the attacks’ 20th anniversary, but didn’t specify timing.
He didn’t run into Biden on Saturday.
Trump’s ex-attorney, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani – who was mayor during the attacks – attended the Ground Zero ceremony.
Giuliani was among the high-profile Trump allies who pushed the so-called ‘big lie’ – that Biden wasn’t the legitimate winner of the 2020 election.
Trump sent out a statement complimenting Giuliani Saturday morning.
‘Congratulations to Rudy Giuliani (for the 20th time!), the greatest Mayor in the history of New York City, for having shown such leadership and doing such an incredible job during and after the attack on our Nation!’ the ex-president said.
Biden avoided some additional awkwardness at Saturday’s ceremony by signing an executive order that ordered a review of the classified documents related to the attack – something 9/11 families, first responders and survivors have demanded.
Former President Barack Obama gives a salute as he enters Saturday’s 9/11 ceremony in New York alongside former First Lady Michelle Obama
Bruce Springsteen played ‘I’ll See You In My Dreams,’ after a bell chimed at 9:03 a.m., marking when Flight 175 hit the second World Trade Center tower
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg arrives for ceremonies Saturday marking the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York arrives Saturday at the ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is captured arriving Saturday at Ground Zero
New York police and firefighters hold a US flag as a band plays the National Anthem at the National 9/11 Memorial during a ceremony commemorating the 20th anniversary
An American flag is unfurled at the Pentagon in Washington Saturday to mark the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks
Two bells were rung after each of the names of the victims of the Flight 93 were read aloud during Saturday’s 9/11 ceremony in Shanksville, Pennsylvania
The president had been told by nearly 1,800 Americans impacted by the terror attacks last month not to come to any of the 20th anniversary events unless he declassified documents that potentially show Saudi government links to the September 11, 2001 hijackers.
Biden’s order makes no mention of Saudi Arabia.
‘When I ran for president, I made a commitment to ensuring transparency regarding the declassification of documents on the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on America,’ Biden said in a statement. ‘As we approach the 20th anniversary of that tragic day, I am honoring that commitment.’
‘Today, I signed an executive order directing the Department of Justice and other relevant agencies to oversee a declassification review of documents related to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s September 11th investigations. The executive order requires the Attorney General to release the declassified documents publicly over the next six months,’ Biden said in a statement last Friday.
The Twin Towers are seen on fire minutes after commercial airplanes were crashed into them by Al Qaeda hijackers on September 11, 2001
Saturday’s ceremony in New York included a playing of the National Anthem and bells chiming for when each of the four planes crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and finally a field in Somerset, County, Pennsylvania – sparing either the White House or the U.S. Capitol.
Family members read the names of the deceased, giving tributes to husbands, wives, uncles, sisters, brothers and children who were among the 2,977 killed.
Bruce Springsteen played ‘I’ll See You In My Dreams,’ after a bell chimed at 9:03 a.m., marking when Flight 175 hit the second World Trade Center tower.
General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke at the Pentagon.
‘Oh my God, oh my God’: How Jill Biden screamed down the phone to Joe when the second plane hit the Twin Towers on 9/11 as he was commuting to the Capitol on Amtrak
On the morning of September 11, 2001, now President Joe Biden was riding his beloved Amtrak from Wilmington to Washington and talking on the phone to his wife.
‘Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God,’ Dr. Jill Biden yelled into the phone.
One commercial airplane had already slammed into the North Tower at the World Trade Center in New York City. She exclaimed when a second followed.
‘Jill, what is it?’ Biden, then a U.S. senator from Delaware, asked his wife.
‘Another plane … the other tower,’ she responded.
Biden is set to mark the 20th anniversary of the terror attacks with visits to Ground Zero, Shanksville, Pennsylvania and the Pentagon on Saturday.
Then Sen. Joe Biden appeared on ABC News after the Pentagon was attacked in Washington and argued that Congress should get back in session and President George W. Bush should return to the White House
Dr. Jill Biden was on the phone with now President Joe Biden when Flight 174 crashed into the South Tower on 9/11. ‘Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God,’ she exclaimed
He recounted what he experienced on 9/11 in his 2007 memoir, ‘Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics,’ which he published in advance of his 2008 presidential run.
He wrote that he was trying to project strength and help unify the American people on that fateful day.
When Biden arrived at Union Station, Flight 77 had already disintegrated into the side of the Pentagon, and Washington was masked with a smoky haze.
He headed several blocks to the U.S. Capitol Building, ignoring protests over the phone from his daughter Ashley, arguing it was the safest place to be that day.
‘Damn it, I want to go in,’ Biden told a police officer who refused his access to the building.
Congressional leaders, at that point, had been moved to a secure location.
Meanwhile, President George W. Bush was on Air Force One and Vice President Dick Cheney was in the White House bunker.
Biden wrote in his memoir that it was important to ‘show the country we were still doing business.’
Linda Douglass, who was an ABC News reporter at the time, told CNN in an interview that she found Biden and Sen. John Warner of Virginia discussing who had the most seniority, as they wanted Congress to come back. Biden, at the time, served as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
‘He really felt it was important for the government to get right back to business,’ Douglass told CNN. ‘It was extremely important for the country to hear from a senior figure in the government,’ she added.
People run from the Capitol Building after Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon on the morning of September 11, 2001. Biden arrived at Union Station after the Pentagon attack and an officer wouldn’t allow him to enter the Capitol
Biden agreed to jump on-camera and talk to ABC News, following Douglass to the live-shot location several blocks away.
‘I think we should get back as quick as we can, Peter, into session,’ Biden said as he stood beside Douglass and spoke to anchor Peter Jennings.
‘I think we have to show that we’re up, we’re ready, we’re ready to move, we are in fact – nothing has fundamentally altered this government,’ he continued. ‘And the tragedy that occurred to these thousands of people is one that we must in fact follow through and find out who’s responsible for.’
‘But in the meantime, we should be calm and cool and collected about going about our business as a nation. Terrorism wins when, in fact, they alter our civil liberties or shut down our institutions. We have to demonstrate neither of those things have happened,’ Biden added.
Biden wasn’t willing to place blame on American officials not focusing on threats.
‘This in a sense is the most God awful wake-up call we’ve ever had to how we have to redirect our resources,’ he said.
Biden (right) ran into ABC News reporter Linda Douglass (left) outside the Capitol Building and agreed to go on TV
During the TV hit, he also applauded Bush for coming back to Washington, as the president was en route.
Later that day, Biden received a call from Bush, thanking him for his remarks.
‘It was important to show the American people that everybody now was safe and that we were all together in this. There were the Democrats, the Republicans – we were going to be supporting the president totally. And that’s the message Joe sent, and that’s why the president called him,’ recalled former Rep. Bob Brady of Philadelphia to CNN.
Brady gave Biden and his brother a ride back to Delaware that day.
In his book, Biden wrote that Bush had told him the intelligence community had advised him to go to a bunker in the midwest.
Biden argued the president needed to return to Washington, which he did.
‘I hung up the phone, and there was silence in the van until Jimmy spoke up,’ he said of his brother.
‘Whatever staffer suggested he call you just got fired,’ Jimmy Biden joked.