(ANCHORAGE, Alaska) — President Joe Biden marked the 22nd anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in Alaska on Monday afternoon.
“I join you on this solemn day to renew our sacred vow: never forget,” Biden said as he spoke to service members, first responders and their families at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage. “Each of those precious lives stolen too soon when evil attacked ground zero in New York.”
Biden said the terrorist attacks, the deadliest ever carried out on U.S. soil, “tested our strength, our resolve and our courage.”
“But we’ll never forget that when faced with evil and an enemy who sought to tear us apart, we endured,” the president said. “We endured.”
Biden had been overseas to attend the G20 summit in India and to visit Vietnam in an effort to further shore up U.S. relations with key partners in Asia amid China’s rising influence.
He departed Vietnam early Monday morning for Anchorage. Vietnam’s Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh expressed his condolences for the “tremendous losses incurred” during the Sept. 11 attacks, and Biden thanked him for expressing “sentiment and concern.”
Biden has faced some criticism for not participating in traditional ceremonies at the White House, at the Pentagon or in New York, including former Vice President Mike Pence, speaking on the GOP candidate campaign trail in Iowa.
“I was very disappointed that President Joe Biden was not at ground zero or the Pentagon or in Shanksville. Look, I know it’s been 22 years, but I think these are moments where the leader of this country has the ability to pay a debt of gratitude, to remember those that were lost the day, but also to remember the heroes that were forged that day, and everyday sense for the last 22 years,” he said.
Biden addressed his visit abroad and stop in Alaska in his remarks, calling such trips “an essential part of how we’re going to ensure the United States is flanked by the broadest of allies and partners who will stand with us and assure our security, to build a world that is safer for all of our children.”
“Today of all days, what I am reminded of is that it is not a given,” he said.
Vice President Kamala Harris represented the administration at the commemoration ceremony at ground zero in lower Manhattan on Monday morning. She was surrounded by local leaders, including Democrats Gov. Kathy Hochul, Mayor Eric Adams, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and others.
The process of identifying the lives lost continues decades after two planes hit the World Trade Center. Just last week, two new victims were identified as the 1,648th and 1,649th victim of the 2,753 people killed at the Twin Towers.
The New York City Fire Department this week also added 43 names to a memorial wall remembering firefighters, paramedics and civilian support staff members who died from illnesses related to rescue and recovery efforts after the attack.
The first year of his presidency, Biden visited all three attack sites. Last year, he delivered remarks at the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial in Arlington, Virginia.
“While every year we mark this holiday, it is never easy,” Biden said. “Anyone here or across the country mourning a lost loved one, all of those who still bear the wounds from that searing September morning, I know how hard it is.
“How can we reopen up that wound?” Biden said. “It’s like opening a black hole in your chest, sucking you into it again, bringing you back to that moment when you saw the news, the moment you got that phone call. The moment you realized you’d never say again, ‘See you later mom’ or ‘talk to you soon, son.'”
Biden commemorated the first responders who rushed to ground zero that day, civilians and service members who responded at the Pentagon and the “patriot” passengers on Flight 93 as well as those who later served in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Last week, Biden rejected proposed conditions for a plea deal for five Guantanamo Bay detainees for their alleged roles aiding in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
On Monday’s anniversary, first lady Jill Biden laid a wreath at the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial in Arlington and second gentleman Doug Emhoff traveled to Shanksville, Pennsylvania, for a memorial observance for Flight 93.
Nearly 3,000 people were killed that in a string of coordinated attacks by the terrorist group al-Qaida. Forty individuals died on Flight 93 and 184 lives were lost at the Pentagon.
ABC News’ Ben Gittleson, Libby Cathey and Will McDuffie contributed to this report.
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