SULAIMANI (ESTA) — U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday called for national unity as the United States prepared to mark the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks that killed 2,977 people.
Biden honored the memories of those killed in the attacks and the thousands more injured, as well as the firefighters, nurses and many others who risked or gave their lives during the subsequence rescue missions and long road to recovery, according to Reuters.
He also acknowledged the “darker forces of human nature – fear and anger, resentment and violence against Muslim Americans, true and faithful followers of a peaceful religion” that he said had bent, but not broken, American unity.
“To me, that’s the central lesson of September 11, is that at our most vulnerable, in the push and pull of all that makes us human, and the battle for the soul of America, unity is our greatest strength,” Biden said as he was speaking in a videotaped recording at the White House.
“Unity doesn’t mean we have to believe the same thing. We must have a fundamental respect and faith in each other, and in this nation,” he added.
Biden’s appeal for unity comes at a time when political divisions over the coronavirus pandemic, vaccine mandates, and voting and abortion rights, are boiling over across the country.
Hate crimes against Arab-Americans, Muslims and others perceived as Arab or Muslim surged after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and while they abated in recent years, the numbers have never returned to levels seen before the attacks, FBI data show.
Biden ordered the Department of Justice to review documents from the FBI’s probe into the attacks for declassification and release, after many families of the 9/11 victims asked the president to skip 20-year memorial events unless he declassified documents they contend will show Saudi Arabia leaders supported the attacks.
“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,” he added.
Saudi Arabia has said it had no role in the hijacked plane attacks.
The anniversary comes shortly after the end of the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, launched some 20 years ago to root out al-Qaeda, which carried out the 9/11 attacks.
Biden’s withdrawal of U.S. troops in August, months after a deadline set by his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, and the resulting rapid fall of the country to the Taliban has drawn criticism from members of both political parties.