WASHINGTON — To honor the nearly 3,000 Americans who died 20 years ago on 9/11, President Joe Biden will visit the sites of the terrorist attacks.
Biden on Saturday will observe the anniversary in New York City, where hijackers crashed two passenger jets into the World Trade Center, killing 2,753 people.
He’ll also visit Shanksville, Somerset County, where 40 people were killed after United Airlines Flight 93 was taken over by terrorists and crashed into the ground.
The last stop is the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., where a fourth hijacked plane crashed into the headquarters of the Department of Defense, killing 184 people—including all on board American Airlines Flight 77.
The attacks were carried out by members of al-Qaida, an Islamic extremist group formed by Osama bin Laden and supported by the Taliban.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during a press briefing that Biden “felt it was important to visit each of the three places to mark the lives that were lost, the sacrifices on that day.”
The Pentagon completed renovations for a memorial in 2020, but has closed it due to the coronavirus pandemic. The memorial honors those killed in the attack, many of whom lived in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.
The visits will come weeks after Biden pulled U.S. troops from Afghanistan, ending a 20-year war launched after the attacks by President George W. Bush. The Taliban, a terrorist organization that has a history of human rights violations, has taken over the country.
More than 120,000 people, many of them Afghans who helped U.S. troops over the last 20 years, were evacuated amidst the withdrawal. Many Afghans have arrived at military bases for processing in Maryland and Virginia.
“I was not going to extend this forever war,” Biden said in an address to the nation on Aug. 31. “I simply do not believe that the safety and security of America is enhanced by continuing to deploy thousands of American troops and spending billions of dollars a year in Afghanistan.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi praised Biden for not only ending the war in Afghanistan, but for also declassifying certain documents relating to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“Our hearts and thoughts and prayers are with those families forever, always, but on those occasions we show special deference,” she said in a statement.
Pelosi said she saluted the president for declassifying the documents related to 9/11, “including those previously classified documents regarding to Saudi Arabia’s possible involvement.” Saudi Arabia in reaction has issued a statement of innocence.
“We must never forget the enduring pain of the families and loved ones of the 2,977 innocent people who were killed during the worst terrorist attack on America in our history,” Biden said in signing the declassification order. “For them, it was not only a national and international tragedy. It was a personal devastation.”
He said the executive order requires the attorney general to release the declassified documents publicly over the next six months.
The House Committee on Homeland Security also held a roundtable discussion with first responders about the cooperation between the Department of Homeland Security and first responders since the 9/11 attacks.
“This very Committee was established in the aftermath of 9/11, and since 2002 has been charged with supporting efforts to secure the homeland and the American people,” the chairman of the committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson, (D-Miss.), said in a statement.
Members of the committee visited the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York on Thursday.
“We were reminded again of those we lost, especially the brave first responders who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their fellow citizens,” Thompson said.