Politicians pause the campaign for a day to pay tribute to the victims of attacks that the country overcame by exhibiting a unity that is not seen, 19 years later, in the coronavirus crisis
The United States this Friday commemorated one tragedy from the center of another. The memory of the victims has once again overwhelmed New York, the city where the skyscrapers demolished in 2001 by planes piloted by suicide terrorists stood, shaken again by a pandemic that has been particularly fierce in these streets, taking advantage of the noise and the hectic life that make the Big Apple a unique place. The coronavirus, which has disrupted all the routines of the city, has also left its mark on this exciting ritual that is repeated every September 11, forcing it to adapt to the limitations of public meetings to prevent the spread of the virus.
There has been no stage, faces have been covered with masks, and social distance has been respected in the square, where today the water flows serenely through the land where the skyscrapers had their roots. But the bells have sounded throughout the city and, although a recording broadcast by loudspeakers has replaced the traditional live recitation, the names of the almost 3,000 killed in the attack have been heard. An atrocious figure, but one that serves to put into perspective a pandemic that has taken 65 times more lives in this country, up to 23,000 of them in New York City alone. The 9/11 attacks put an end to the feeling of indestructibility of a country that, once again with the city of skyscrapers as the tragic epicenter, is once again subjected to a very tough test, although of a different nature.
19 years ago those planes hijacked by Islamist terrorists crashed into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon (in Virginia, next to Washington) and a field in Shanksville (Pennsylvania). The memory of the victims has been honored in all three places by relatives, anonymous citizens and also prominent politicians, protagonists of an electoral campaign that also touches everything, including the memory of a historical moment when a fractured country was united in the face of a crisis national. In this new crisis, with presidential elections two months from now, that unity seems like a distant memory.
The candidates of both parties for the country’s presidency and vice-presidency have pressed the pause button in their campaigns and have dedicated the day to commemorating the terrorist attacks. Democrat Joe Biden attended the morning ceremony at the memorial to the victims at Ground Zero in southern Manhattan with his wife, where he greeted Vice President Mike Pence with a bump of his elbows. Biden briefly broke the distancing protocols to go to comfort a 90-year-old woman who was crying in a wheelchair, holding a photograph of her son, killed in the terrorist attacks. “That never goes away,” said the presidential candidate, putting a hand to his chest, referring to his own deceased son.
There have been no political speeches, as is traditional in this solemn memory-centered ceremony. But the occasion has offered a rare mirage of unity for politicians, including also Democratic State Governor Andrew Cuomo, who have clashed harshly over differences over the management of the coronavirus crisis.
President Trump has attended the ceremony held in Shanksville with the first lady, where United Arilines Flight 93 crashed, the only one of the four hijacked planes that did not reach its destination, as some passengers, understanding that it was a suicide mission, they attempted to take control of the ship that was heading to crash into the Washington Capitol. Trump has remembered the victims and the emergency services workers. “Our sacred duty and our solemn promise is to carry forward the noble legacy of the brave souls who gave their lives for us 19 years ago,” the president said.
Joe and Jill Biden have also traveled to Shacksville in the afternoon, where they have not met with the president and the first lady. And Kamala Harris, her partner in the Democratic ticket, has attended with her husband the ceremony held in Fairfax (Virginia), where she recalled that the terrorist attacks served as an example of how the country can unite in times of crisis. “Let’s remember that honoring them is also remembering who we are as Americans,” he said. “Because in times of tragedy, in times of despair, we, by the very nature of what we are, stick together.”
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