SHANKSVILLE, Pa. – Former President George W. Bush spoke Saturday during a 20th-anniversary commemoration of the terror attacks about the horrors and heroics the nation experienced on Sept. 11, 2001, and drew parallels to the foreign terrorists of that day to growing threats of domestic extremism.
Bush, who was in the first year of his presidency when the terror attacks took place, spoke at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Pennsylvania.
“For those too young to recall that clear September day, it is hard to describe the mix of feelings we experienced,” Bush said, The New York Times reported. “There was horror at the scale of destruction, and awe at the bravery and kindness that rose to meet it. There was shock at the audacity of evil, and gratitude for the heroism and decency that opposed it.”
Bush was joined at the memorial by Vice President Kamala Harris and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf.
The ceremony, at the site of where the plane crashed into a field, commemorated the actions of passengers and crew of Flight 93 who are believed to have averted the hijacker’s mission to target the U.S. Capitol.
“The actions of an enemy revealed the spirit of a people, and we were proud of our wounded nation,” Bush said.
“The 33 passengers and seven crew of Flight 93 could have been any group of citizens selected by fate. In a sense, they stood in for us all,” Bush said. “The terrorists soon discovered that a random group of Americans is an exceptional group of people.”
Although many Muslim Americans faced heightened discrimination in the wake of the attacks, Bush compared the divisiveness facing the nation today to the sense of unity after 9/11. Bush said that day showed that Americans can come together despite their differences.
“I come without explanations or solutions,” Bush said. “I can only tell you what I’ve seen. On America’s day of trial and grief, I saw millions of people instinctively grab for a neighbor’s hand and rally to the cause of one another. That is the America I know.”
Bush also warned against the growing threat of domestic extremism.
“There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home,” Bush said, Reuters reported. “But in their disdain for pluralism, in their disregard for human life, in their determination to defile national symbols, they are children of the same foul spirit, and it is our continuing duty to confront them.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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