NEW YORK (AP) — Vice President Kamala Harris, Republican presidential candidate and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani joined New York politicians and mourners at a 9/11 memorial ceremony at ground zero Monday.
The bipartisan group of politicians was not scheduled to speak at the ceremony, marking the 22nd anniversary of the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil. The solemn ceremony in lower Manhattan was instead focused on the hourslong reading of the names of the dead.
The hijacked plane attacks that claimed nearly 3,000 lives and upended American foreign policy and national security also created a sense of national unity across the political spectrum rarely seen in today's U.S. politics.
Monday's ceremony brought political opponents to the same hallowed ground, though they did not appear to be interacting. Harris, who arrived with New York Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul, passed not far from where DeSantis and his wife stood.
Along with Harris were Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg.
Not far away was Giuliani, who was once hailed as “America's Mayor” for leading New York City through the wake of the attacks but has in recent years become tied to former President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn his 2020 loss to Joe Biden in the presidential election.
Ground zero has long been off-limits for politics on Sept. 11, and for many years Republicans and Democrats would stand side-by-side to hear the ringing of the bells and the reading of the victims’ names.
Biden marked the day of remembrance at a military base in Anchorage, Alaska, on his way back to Washington from a trip to India and Vietnam.
“Now it shouldn’t take a national tragedy to remind us of the power of national unity. But that’s how we truly honor those we lost on 9/11," Biden said. “It’s more important than ever that we come together around the principle of American democracy, regardless of our political background. We must not succumb to the poisonous politics of difference and division.”
DeSantis, in a statement later Monday, said he was honored to meet with family members of those who died on 9/11 and called on Biden to publicly commit to declassifying any U.S. intelligence documents related to the attacks. As part of an executive order signed by Biden, the FBI in 2021 released hundreds of newly declassified documents.
Victims’ relatives who for years demanded the release of the documents have called for additional transparency and seek to hold the Saudi government accountable for the attacks. The Trump administration fought the release of certain information sought by victims’ families.
DeSantis, in his statement, did not mention Trump or his administration by name but said, “Decades later, we as a nation still owe full transparency and accountability to these grieving families. Yet too many politicians have broken past promises to them, and that is wholly unacceptable.”
Trump, a former New Yorker, did not attend Monday's ceremony but instead released a brief video statement talking about the attacks and honoring first responders.
“No one who lived through the horror of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks can ever forget the agony and the anguish of that terrible day. It was a terrible day. The images of dark plumes of smoke billowing over lower Manhattan, the Pentagon and a field of Pennsylvania — such a beautiful field — are seared into our minds forever," he said in the video. "We will never forget."
Associated Press writers Seung Min Kim and Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report.