U.S. President Joe Biden said the United States has a duty to protect its democracy and urged Americans to come together as the country marked the 22nd anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.
"Unity brought Americans together on that painful day 22 years ago. It shouldn't take a national tragedy to remind us of the power of national unity," he said during a ceremony Monday at a military base in Anchorage, Alaska.
"We truly honor those we lost on 9/11 by remembering what we can do together," Biden said.
The president said he believes the central lesson of September 11 is "that for all our flaws and disagreements, there is nothing we cannot accomplish when we defend with our hearts what makes us unique in the world — our democracy."
Biden noted that the U.S. intelligence community has recently assessed that the al-Qaida threat from Afghanistan and Pakistan has reached a historic low.
"Our longest war is over, but our commitment for preventing another attack on the United States and our people and allies will never, never rest," Biden said.
The president said terrorism — including political and ideological violence — is the opposite of all the Untied States stands for as a nation.
During his time in Anchorage, Biden took part in a memorial with members of the military, first responders and their families. His Alaska stop came as he traveled home from an overseas trip that included the G20 summit in India and meetings with leaders in Vietnam.
While Monday is the rare 9/11 anniversary without a president appearing at observances at crash sites in New York, Pennsylvania or the Pentagon, it is not without precedent.
In 2005, President George W. Bush held an observance on the White House lawn, while in 2015, President Barack Obama participated in a moment of silence at the White House before attending an event honoring the work of the military at nearby Fort Meade.
Vice President Kamala Harris attended a ceremony Monday at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York. Al-Qaida terrorists hijacked two commercial jets and crashed them into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, causing both buildings to collapse.
The Bell of Hope rang out at St. Paul's Chapel in New York Monday to mark the moment at 8:46 a.m. local time when the first of two planes hit the World Trade Center's North Tower.
Monday, as in past years, relatives and loved ones read aloud the names of 2,977 victims to the thousands who had gathered on the warm, cloudy morning.
First lady Jill Biden, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chief of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley all participated Monday in a wreath-laying ceremony at the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial, just outside Washington, D.C.
The ceremony began with a bell ringing as the names were read of each of the 184 people who died after terrorists crashed a hijacked plane into the building — 59 who were on the plane and 125 people in the building. The Pentagon serves as the headquarters of the U.S. Defense Department.
A U.S. flag was draped over the area where the plane hit the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. local time, just as it was in the days after the attack.
In his remarks, Austin said remembering the attacks each year is difficult, and as the years go by, it might feel as if the world is moving on. But he assured the families and loved ones of the victims that the Department of Defense will always remember.
Second gentleman Doug Emhoff was in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, to lay a wreath at a memorial where United Flight 93 crashed into a field after passengers fought their hijackers. The names of those victims were also read, as a bell rang in remembrance of each.
September 11 is a federally recognized National Day of Service and Remembrance in the United States, aiming to transform a day of tragedy into a day of doing good to honor the memories of victims and those who responded to the terror attacks.