Trump, Biden vie to show leadership on 9/11 anniversary


SHANKSVILLE, United States, Sept 11, 2020 (BSS/AFP) – US President
Donald Trump struck a somber tone Friday on the anniversary of the
September 11, 2001 attacks as his Democratic rival Joe Biden comforted
relatives of victims — dueling bids to unite a deeply divided nation.

Nineteen years after the devastating Al-Qaeda attacks, the former
vice president Biden began the day in New York for an annual event
honoring the nearly 3,000 people who died in the destruction of the
World Trade Center.

Trump did not attend the ceremony in his home city, sending Mike
Pence in his stead. Biden and the vice president tapped elbows and
chatted briefly.

The Republican president instead traveled to Shanksville,
Pennsylvania, where an airliner crashed after passengers tried to
wrest control of the jet from the hijackers.

Trump and his wife Melania listened in silence as the names of the
40 passengers and crew killed aboard Flight 93 were read aloud — with
two bells tolling after the reading of each one.

In brief prepared remarks, the incumbent — who is hoping to defeat
Biden and win a second term — paid “tribute to their sacrifice” along
with all those who perished in the attacks.

He also honored first responders as well as military personnel who
fought to “preserve our freedom” in the subsequent wars launched under
former president George W. Bush.

“We resolve to stand united as one American nation, to defend our
freedoms, to uphold our values, to love our neighbors, to cherish our
country…. and to never, ever forget,” Trump said.

It was a rare call for unity from a leader who normally plays
political divisions to his advantage.

Biden also traveled to Shanksville — but there was no chance of
the rivals crossing paths: Trump left well before the Democratic
candidate and his wife Jill arrived.

– Biden connects with relatives –

At his first stop in New York, Biden did not deliver a speech —
the ceremony generally reserves that privilege to the close ones of
victims — but his mere presence drew attention at an event broadcast
live on main US television networks.

The ceremony was as usual punctuated by poignant moments of
silence, the first one coming at 8:46 am (1246 GMT), when the first
plane hit one of the Twin Towers.

The 77-year-old Biden — wearing a face mask — appeared in his
element at the relatively crowded event, surrounded by people after
months of keeping a low profile in line with coronavirus prevention

At one point, he sought common ground with a 90-year-old woman
whose son died at 43 in the attacks, reflecting on the loss of his own
son Beau to cancer.

“It never goes away,” the pair told each other.

– ‘Obvious calculations’ –

In addition to stopping by the official Ground Zero museum
ceremony, Pence attended another nearby foundation-organized
commemoration where some 100 relatives gathered to read the names of
love ones they lost.

The vice president delivered a brief address and his wife read a
well-known verse from the Bible.

None of the appearances featured prominent political showmanship,
though the ceremonies were closely followed by the media and gave the
candidates what political scientist Robert Shapiro dubbed a chance to
“show their leadership and empathy.”

The choice of Trump and Biden to both head to Pennsylvania, a vital
election battleground state, illustrates the “obvious calculations”
their advisors have made, the Columbia University scholar said.

Long a Democratic stronghold and Biden’s native state, Pennsylvania
swung narrowly to Trump in the 2016 election, helping him secure
victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Polls show Trump and Biden nearly even in Pennsylvania, and Democrats
hope to win the state back in the November 3 vote.

But if the somber commemorations mark a “truce” of sorts on the
campaign trail, it is likely to be a short-lived one, as was the case
in 2016.

Clinton took part in the New York memorial but left the event early
because she was feeling ill.

Her doctor later revealed he had diagnosed her two days earlier
with pneumonia, which she had kept secret.

Trump jumped on the incident and for weeks mercilessly mocked his
rival’s health.