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Nation Honors The Fallen And Heroes Of September 11th; Advocating For Dead, Dying Ground Zero Responders; How The Sports World Helped America Heal After 9/11; Bush Calls Out Domestic Terrorists During 9/11 Ceremony; How The Global War On Terror Has Changed Since 9/11; Biden Visits New York City, Shanksville, The Pentagon For 9/11 Memorial Ceremonies; Man Walks To Honor 9/11 Firefighter Brother. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired September 11, 2021 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TERRY STRADA, HUSBAND KILLED IN NORTH TOWER ON 9/11: But there are so many good people doing good things. And we would like the world to go back to the way it was on September 12. Actually we would love for it to got back to the way it was before September 11, but since we can't do that, we would really like to see the unity back in this world that existed on September 12.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: I think that is so important what you said there. We all want that for our country.
Terry Strada, thanks so much for sharing your story, Tom's story. And all of our best to you and your family. Thank so much for your time on this September 11th.
STRADA: Thank you. Thank you.
ACOSTA: And you're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Acosta in Washington.
September 11th, 2001 the day our world changed for ever when terrorists took the lives of nearly 3,000 people. Today 20 years to the day later, Americans pause to honor those we lost.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Francis.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gary Jay Frank.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Morton --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sheila Patricia Barnes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kevin --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: For some it still feels like yesterday, whether they watched it all unfold on TV or from the dust-filled streets of New York. Some are too young to know what life was like before 9/11, yet they still lost just as much.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My uncle firefighter, Christopher Michael Mazillo (ph). I know you're with us every day watching over us. And even though I never met you in person, I still miss you a lot.
Mom always tells me all the crazy, fun things you did. And I'm sure if you were here, I would probably be doing them with you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Generations forever redefined and still healing 20 years ago today.
CNN's Polo Sandoval is in New York where some of the memorial events were held. Polo, this has been quite an emotional day.
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It sure has, Jim. This is where President Biden started his full day of memorials. We have seen a steady stream of people here stopping by, paying their respects today.
We did not hear from the president or other elected officials at this site, it was all about the families. Those who have lost loved ones and those who survived the horrific events of 20 years ago.
SANDOVAL (voice over): At dawn, the unfurling of a flag over the side of the Pentagon hit by the jetliner 20 years ago signaled the beginning of a day of tributes.
It's one of three sites where Americans gathered in somber remembrance, honoring each one of the 2,977 people killed in the terrorist attacks on September 11.
At the footprints where the Twin Towers proudly stood over Lower Manhattan, President Biden and the first lady were joined by the Obamas and a sea of 9/11 families to memorialize those lost two decades ago.
At 8:46 a.m., the first of six moments of silence marking the instant the first hijacked airliner struck the north tower. Mike Low's daughter Sara was a flight attendant on that plane.
MIKE LOW, LOST DAUGHTER SARA ON 9/11: As we recite the names of those we lost, my memory goes back to that terrible day when it felt like an evil specter had descended on our world. but it was also a time when many people acted above and beyond the ordinary.
SANDOVAL: The tributes continued throughout the morning with the nation pausing five more times. The moment each Twin Tower fell, when the Pentagon was attacked, and the moment United Flight 93 crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is truly an
honor to be with all of you at this field of honor.
SANDOVAL: along with Vice President Kamala Harris, President George W. Bush who served as commander in chief in 2001 helped lead a memorial at that site.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The 33 passengers and 7 crew of flight 93 could have been any group of citizens selected by fate. In a sense, they stood in for us all. The terrorists soon discovered that a random group of Americans is an exceptional group of people.
SANDOVAL: And at the Pentagon, General Mark Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs, honored the victims of the attacks and the service members who died at the subsequent war in Afghanistan.
GEN. MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS: Never forget those who were murdered by the terrorists. Never forget those who rushed to save lives and gave theirs in exchange. Never forget the sons and the daughters, the brothers and sisters, the mothers and fathers who gave their tomorrows for our todays.
SANDOVAL: Tonight the sky over Lower Manhattan lights up again with the annual Tribute and Light, a reminder of the nation's resilience and an iconic symbol honoring those killed and the nation's unbreakable spirit.
SANDOVAL: New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed three pieces of legislation to mark today's anniversary here. They're supposed to make it easier for some of those World Trade Center first responders to apply for certain benefits, Jim. Basically what that does, it expands that criteria and allows many of them to also submit their applications online.
SANDOVA: As you know, Jim, there were so many who assisted in rescue, recovery and cleanup efforts you see behind me or at least at the location you see behind me following the attack.
ACOSTA: All right. Polo Sandoval, thank you very much.
I want to bring in a civilian 9/11 responder who spent most of the last 20 years fighting tirelessly for an often forgotten group -- the people who are dead and dying from working in the toxic aftermath of Ground Zero.
John Feal was a demolition supervisor on site and is the founder of the FealGood Foundation. It's motto, "No Responders Left Behind".
John, we know you so well along with John Stewart and others convincing Congress to extend the 9/11 Compensation Fund to help with medical crises and cost of those exposed. The funding is supposed to be guaranteed through 2090. Is your work done in that regard? Let's talk about that.
JOHN FEAL, FOUNDER, FEALGOOD FOUNDATION: Well, thank you for having me, Jim. And this has been a hard day for a lot of us. And I really appreciate CNN's coverage on this. And you guys are the best.
No, our work is not done. Our work is never going to be done until 2090 because, you know, when the last 9/11 responder and first responder die off, that bill makes sure it takes care of those who went to school or lived in Lower Manhattan.
And we still have a lot of work to do. We have to make sure the funding is there. We have to make sure people get into a program because, you know, it's like a government-run agency, like Workmen's Comp or Social Security.
People fall through the cracks and don't meet criteria. And we have to make sure that everybody affected by 9/11 is taken care of.
And you know, fun fact, after John Stewart testified in June of 2019, we never went home. We went to Albany and got three bills passed the next day at the state level for 9/11 responders. So it's good to see the governor doing the right thing.
ACOSTA: And John, I know this is such an important subject, because I was just with you earlier this week, and we were at a health fair where you saw all of these workers in Lower Manhattan who weren't first responders, they were working in various companies and law firms and whatnot and just got caught up in this.
And now they need this help, and you were telling me at the time that so many folks don't even understand that they could qualify for this kind of assistance.
Can you get the word out on that?
FEAL: Yes, with the help of CNN, I pray that anybody who is watching this, if you lived or worked or went to school in Lower Manhattan. If you lived south of Houston Street to the water, toward the Brooklyn Bridge, you are eligible for the World Trade Center Health Program.
And if you have a certified condition, you will be compensated for it. And so many people think that they're not eligible, they think it's just for the first responders. And it's just not the case, Jim. It's just not the case.
You know, if I could do anything good today other than cry and make myself look silly on TV, I pray that these people get in the program.
ACOSTA: Well you don't look silly at all, John. Let's talk about what this day means to you and what you went through in the aftermath of September 11 just so folks at home, and you and I talked about this the other day, there are young Americans who were babies at the time, maybe weren't even born then t. They don't understand how you were injured in the demolition at Ground Zero, lost part of your foot. There are so many other people down there at the pile who went through the same experience. Share your thoughts.
FEAL: You know listen, everybody thinks 9/11, they think of the innocent lives lost through senseless violence. And my heart bleeds for them and my soul is crushed today.
But when they think of the heroes, they think of the cops and the firefighters and the EMS and everybody else who was uniformed. And they should.
But right after that, there was an army of union members and tradesmen who outnumbered them four or five to 1 one. And they restored hope to a broken city and a lost nation. So many of them who gave of themselves went home and got sick and many have died.
And this is going to be a generation-long battle, and I think -- and I'm not a scientist or a doctor, but I now know of over a hundred people that the next generation after us, these men and these women with their kids being born with a handicaps and severe disability.
These toxins are attacking aggressively and as we get further away from 9/11, it gets worst for us. We're evolving for the worse and the first 20 years were hard on us, the next 20 years are going to decimate us. And that's just not me being a Debbie Downer. That's just my analytics which are always right coming to fruition.
ACOSTA: You've been right all along on this, John.
Let's talk about President Biden and his message that he put out from the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But it's so hard whether it's the first year or the 20th. Someone who had grown up without parents, parents who have suffered without children, husbands and wives who have had find ways forward without their partners in their life with them.
Brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, loved ones and friends who have had to celebrate birthdays and milestones with holes in their hearts.
No matter how much time has passed, these commemorations bring everything painfully back as if you just got the news a few seconds ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: What do you think about that, John? The pain has not faded for so many people -- FEAL: No.
ACOSTA: -- in 20 years?
FEAL: You know, Jim, for anybody to tell us to move on and get over it, you know, that's up to them to decide how much humanity and empathy they have.
But I'm never going to tell anybody to move on. You know, this is 20 years for most people. This is 20 years for most people around the world and this country.
But for those directly affected and impacted by 9/11, this is the longest day in the history of days. This is just a wound that will not close. So many people have not had that closure. They haven't had the justice they deserve. And it's painful to watch these kind of anniversaries or remembrances.
You know, this is my first time back in ten years on the anniversary. And I came back this year because I knew my responsibility to humanize this. Not to, you know, the slogan never forget but to humanize this and let people know that in every congressional district in this country, in every state in this country, that there is someone suffering because of 9/11 who was directly impacted.
And while it happened here in New York, you also had Shanksville, you also had the Pentagon, and tens of thousands of people are now paying for their heroic actions. And there are still those who have not recovered from losing a loved one on that horrific Tuesday morning.
You know, we were galvanized, we came together 20 years ago. And I just pray that everybody just takes time out of their day today and gives of themselves. Because that's what never forget means to me.
Never forget means that the issue is bigger than you and that you give of yourself, from an individual to your community, to your environment, to your country. And there is no better feeling in the world knowing that you helped somebody.
To lend a hand or lend a shoulder or lend an ear today is the easiest thing you can do to lift someone's spirits.
ACOSTA: John Feal, you lift our spirits and helped heal our hearts whenever you go out and do what you do. Thank you so much for everything you've done for the 9/11 community. And as you said, it's a community that struggles with this not just on 9/11 but every day.
But thank you so much for your time, John. We appreciate it.
FEAL: Thank you (INAUDIBLE), Jim. I appreciate it.
ACOSTA: All right. You take care.
Coming up, from military flyovers to field-sized flags to the singing of "God Bless America", how sports helped the country heal after 9/11.
We'll discuss with. Legendary sports anchor Bob Costas, next.
ACOSTA: In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, it was the world of sports that helped set the tone for how a grieving nation would move forward. It came in the form of iconic moments that Americans could rejoice over. President George W. Bush throwing out the first pitch before game 3 of the World Series at Yankee stadium.
There were military jet flyovers over football fields and police officers and firefighters standing on those fields. At the first NASCAR race after 9/11, there were 140,000 flags waving in the stands.
Every arena and stadium offered Americans an opportunity to come together and heal after an unthinkable tragedy.
And joining me now, CNN contributor Bob Costas. Bob, great to have you with us. As you remember all too well, the attacks shut down the sports world for about a week. A lot of athletes were worried at the time that, you know, they wouldn't be honoring the victims properly if they went out and played a baseball game or something like that.
Why was sports so important in helping us get up and get going again?
BOB COSTAS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Ultimately, Jim, as we know, the results don't matter that much in the big picture. They're a diversion, they're a source of entertainment, but they are a shared experience, generationally as it turns out.
And in speaking with some of the people, Joe Torey for example, the manager of the Yankees at that time, Bobby Valentine who managed Mets. Both of them very involved with first responders and their families and in relief efforts afterward really involved. Not just symbolically.
They took their cues from the public. When they went to visit a firehouse not knowing for sure what the reaction would be, and when they were greeted with smiles and claps on the backs, yes we're so good to see you, because this reminded them of something that they shared, something that made them feel better.
And when baseball came back ten days later, the first professional sports event in New York after the tragedy, was on September 21st at the old Shea Stadium. And as it happened, Mike Piazza hit a dramatic home run at the bottom of the eighth inning to win the game for the Mets.
Did that make everything better? Of course not. But with players wearing FDNY and police NYPD hats and honoring first responders with Branford Marsalis playing taps, with the Harlem Boys choir singing "We Shall Overcome", with Ronan Tynan singing "God Bless America" when it really seemed to fit.
[17:20:00] COSTAS: It was appropriate and was moving at Yankees Stadium. And it wasn't irrelevant that the Yankees went to the World Series. And they won all three games at Yankees Stadium, two of them in almost unbelievable, miraculous extra inning fashion.
And then President Bush standing as he did on the mound with purpose, with a sense of confidence. People came to the ballpark but they didn't know what was going to happen that night. We didn't know if we would be a target yet again and just how safe it was.
But the park was full. And Bush's demeanor on the mound -- he threw a perfect strike as it turned out -- his demeanor was not just confident and purposeful.
In a sense it was appropriate defiant. It said to those who would attack us, yes, we took a blow, but you didn't win. We're back here doing what we do.
COSTAS: Joe Torre reminded me this week that when they met before the game with the umpires -- and as you know Jim, there are six umpires in post-season, not just four -- he saw a seventh umpire, somebody he didn't recognize.
It turned out that was a secret service agent dressed as an umpire who was standing on the field when George Bush went out there to throw that first pitch. And there were snipers on the roof at Yankee Stadium.
Amid all those things, people made a statement of some kind about certainly much more than baseball, about their city and about their country.
ACOSTA: It meant that our world had changed, but we could exhale. Sports helped us take a breath, you know, go back to enjoying some of the things, like you said, bring us together.
Can you remember a time --
COSTAS: Yes, there were real moments that --
ACOSTA: Yes. There really were. There really were. Can you remember a time when the politics that divided us as country has played out to this degree in professional sports? And in contrast with what we saw after 9/11 how we were so close together as a nation?
But nowadays, whether it's taking a knee during the national anthem, accepting an invitation to the White House when your team has won the championship, getting a vaccine, we're as divided in the sports world -- maybe not as divided -- but we're awfully divided in the sports world just like we are with everything else. COSTAS: Yes. And there are many people on both sides of the political
aisle, even if they approve a certain social justice initiatives or whatever it might be, there are many people who say, I want to watch the game.
There are plenty of other places to make the points. They may be points that millions people agree with, but they don't necessarily want it front and center every time they just want to watch a ball game. And I don't think that makes you a reactionary or necessarily politically conservative to say that.
There is a time and a place and there are times that it can be effective. We know it was effective for Tommy Smith and John Carlos at the Olympics in 1968. We know that Muhammad Ali made many profound points but he was an individual, a unique individual in an individual sport.
So I think that there are many people who yearn for sports to be a sanctuary, and for only occasionally and only when it's most appropriate, for politics or social issues to intrude upon that moment when people just want to watch the game and root for their teams.
But there are times-- and 9/11 and its aftermath certainly proved it -- there are times when sports can serve a useful and even profound purpose, and they certainly did in New York in the aftermath of 9/11.
ACOSTA: Certainly. And we've been talking about baseball today. We had Joe Torre on earlier with his post-9/11 memories.
But fast-forwarding to today, do you expect this vaccine issue to wreak havoc with the upcoming Major League Baseball playoffs? I mean because that certainly would be a game changer.
COSTAS: Yes. Here's something to consider. It's relatively minor in the big picture when we talk about what our country is facing. But leave aside all the debates about mandates and vaccines and whatever else.
The Boston Red Sox had roughly a dozen players, they had a true outbreak on their team, including yesterday came word that their ace pitcher Chris Sale had tested positive. The vast majority of these players, maybe none of them, will wind up hospitalized and it's infinitesimally -- it's more than overwhelmingly unlikely, let me put it that way, that any of them would die as a result.
But that's not the point. According to the protocols, they have to be sidelined. If they test positive, they have to be sidelined. If they're in close contact, they have to be sidelined.
As you know Jim, as a sports man, the first round of the baseball playoffs are a quick three out of five.
COSTAS: And two teams in each league have to face a one-game wild card. If you're sidelined, if you're a key player or more than one player -- maybe in the case of the Red Sox, if it happened now there would be several.
COSTAS: If you're sidelined, you're putting your team at a competitive disadvantage. It could have an effect on baseball's pro season.
And something else to remember, players who have had COVID, even if they weren't terribly ill -- we're not talking about you and me, Jim, where we go back to our jobs and maybe we felt kind of crummy.
We're talking about elite athletes. When they return, if they're only at 90 percent of their effectiveness, that makes a huge difference. Yankee pitchers Gary Cole and Jordan Montgomery both tested positive. They said that when they returned, their energy level wasn't quite the same.
So again, this isn't the most important thing in the world, but can it impact team's fortunes? It most certainly can.
ACOSTA: Well, just after the days after 9/11 it felt good to get back to sports. Bob, it felt good to talk about sports with you this afternoon. Bob Costas, thanks so much for being with us. We appreciate it.
COSTAS: Thank you, Jim.
ACOSTA: All right.
And as we head to break, we want to show you part of Bruce Springsteen's emotional performance at Ground Zero today. It was something to watch. Take a look.
ACOSTA: As the nation remembers the tragedy of 9/11, 20 years on, today's somber anniversary is also a chance to reflect on how the threat has evolved in the ensuing decades where President Bush saw the initial threat firsthand.
And today, at the site of the flight 93 crash in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, he did not mince words about the new danger facing America.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And we have seen growing evidence that the dangers to our country can come not only across borders but from violence that gathers within.
There's a little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home.
But then there's disdainful 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: CNN national security analyst, Peter Bergen, joins me now. He is the author of "The Rise and Fall of Osama bin Laden."
Peter, you sat face to face with Osama bin Laden back in 1997 producing the al Qaeda leader's first TV interview for CNN. You've looked in the eye of foreign terrorists.
What do you make of President Bush's comments and the comparison he made today?
I got the sense that this has been building up in him for some time, that he's been wanting to say this for some time. This just didn't happen today.
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. The 20th anniversary has been coming for a long time, So I thought his comments were -- they spoke for themselves. I think they were the right thing to say.
On the other hand, let us not forget that he's the author of the Iraq war, which gave al Qaeda a new lease of life and which brought a lot of -- kind of intensified this sectarian conflict in the Mideast, which spilled over into Syria, Yemen and other places.
So, I mean, he's not without blame himself, I'm sorry to say, in all of this.
Nonetheless, this -- will anybody in the Republican Party who is a Trumpist listen to this? I mean, they've hated the Bush's for years. I've reported on this for many years.
So I'm glad he said it. And he's got a lot of authority on the subject. It was the right thing to say.
But I did watch that thinking about the Iraq war. I mean, Trump presumably will shoot back at some point and make that point.
ACOSTA: Of course.
Twenty years ago, do you think bin Laden and those working with him, did you think, at that time, that they anticipated what the U.S. response would be?
Do you think they understood that there would be this overwhelming effort to hunt them down?
BERGEN: They really didn't. Bin Laden -- a mistake is to stop believing in the propaganda. He really thought the United States was weak. He compared it to the former Soviet Union when we interviewed him in '97.
He thought we would send a few cruise missiles, maybe try to assassinate him. He had no idea we would overthrow the Taliban in three months. He didn't plan for that.
His theory of the case was the fact that we were weak and we pulled out of Somalia in '93, we pulled out of Lebanon in 1983.
It was a crazy strategy because we're not going to pull out -- when you attack Washington and New York, of course, we're going to retaliate.
Of course, the Japanese made the same mistake in the early 40s. They thought the United States was weak.
It's a common mistake to think of our very raucous democracy as somehow a sign of weakness. And bin Laden fell into this trap.
Al Qaeda was really decimated pretty quickly in the first months after 9/11.
ACOSTA: And one interesting thing from your book, bin Laden, when he was on the run, told his own children not to work with al Qaeda? What was that about?
BERGEN: Well, the battle of Tora Bora in December 2001, the United States dropped 700,000 pounds of ordinance pretty much close to him. He was probably wounded in the left shoulder. He wrote his will as he escaped. He was very downcast.
And two days after he narrowly escaped being killed by the United States, he wrote this will saying don't join al Qaeda.
Over time, he changed his mind.
ACOSTA: One of the important items, I think, getting back to this truth that there are so many young Americans who have no grasp of the magnitude of what happened on September 11 and what happened in the years that followed.
I think one of the questions young people have is, why did it take so long for the United States to finally get bin Laden? What is the answer to that question?
BERGEN: Whitey Bulger is sometimes how I answer this. Whitey Bulger was really wanted by the FBI. He disappeared for a very long time. He lived in California and was finally found.
Multiply the problem by 10, 20 times. You know, he was in Pakistan, a very large country. He was being very careful.
So it's hard to find people if they're really taking care of their personal -- he wasn't using the Internet or the phone. In the end, of course, he was communicating through his curriers. And
that led to him. If he said nothing and just became a hermit, he might still be with us.
ACOSTA: They might never had found him.
ACOSTA: And the Taliban claim they oppose terrorism now. Yet, they just appointed an al Qaeda official to their cabinet.
ACOSTA: How do we deal with that?
BERGEN: Can you think of a country in the world where two of the cabinet members have $5 million on their head from the FBI?
BERGEN: It's like an "Onion" headline, the Taliban opposes terrorism. It doesn't make any sense.
BERGEN: In fact, the U.N. identifies the minister of the Interior in the Taliban as a leader of al Qaeda. So this is an astonishing development on the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
They just appointed their new cabinet on Tuesday, which is made of up people who are close associates or actually in al Qaeda. So I don't know what we do about that.
But it doesn't bode well for their claims of being Taliban 2.0, new and improved, you know.
ACOSTA: Is that realistic? Honestly, I thought it was laughable.
BERGEN: It was completely laughable. But there's a lot of wishful thinking about the Taliban. They must be laughing at us at this point.
ACOSTA: Well, Peter Bergen, thank you for that analysis. They shouldn't do that. They absolutely shouldn't do that. They should not go down that road again, in my view.
All right, Peter Bergen, thanks so much.
We'll be right back.
ACOSTA: President Biden marking the 20th anniversary of 9/11 today by visiting all three memorial sites. He was at Ground Zero in New York City this morning. Then, he was in
Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where he honored the brave men and women on United flight 93. And last hour, he participated in a wreath laying ceremony at the Pentagon.
CNN's Arlette Saenz is back with us now.
Arlette, walk us through this day.
ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Jim, President Biden arrived back home in Wilmington, Delaware, just a short time ago after wrapping up this day of remembrance after visiting each of the sites of the September 11, 2001, attacks.
The president started the day at that 9/11 memorial at Ground Zero in New York City where he was also accompanied by former President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton.
After being at that site, hearing the names of those who were lost during those terror attacks, the president made his way to Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
The site where that United flight 93 crashed into that rural field as the passengers on that flight overtook the hijackers who had intended, likely, to crash that plane into the U.S. capitol.
Which is somewhere where President Biden was back 20 years ago when he was a Delaware Senator.
The president walked through that field and he saw that boulder that sits at the site where that crash, that impact was made.
That came after he and his wife, first lady, Jill Biden, laid a wreath at the memorial.
The president also stopped by a fire station, the Shanksville Fire Department, which saw the first firefighters arriving on scene there in Shanksville 20 years ago.
Then the president wrapped up his day across from here at the Pentagon where he laid a wreath alongside Vice President Kamala Harris.
While he was traveling today, the president took a moment to reflect on the moment as he called for the country to come together.
And he also shared how one of his friends lost a son in 9/11 during that attack in New York City.
And he talked about what this moment means for so many families.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a tough day for him and for everybody who lost somebody. And, you know, I know you heard me say it before, and I'll probably
get criticized for saying it again, but these memorials are really important.
But they're also incredibly difficult for the people who are affected by them. Because it brings back the moment they got the phone call. It brings back that instant we got the news. No matter how many years go by.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAENZ: So the president there trying to be the empathizer-in-chief as he wrapped up that day of remembrance for all those lives lost in those terror attacks 20 years ago -- Jim?
ACOSTA: Arlette Saenz, thank you so much for that report.
And a programming note. Join Jake Tapper, Robert DeNiro, Leonardo DiCaprio, plus music artist, Brad Paisley, for a 9/11 20th anniversary tribute. "SHINE A LIGHT" begins right here at 8:00, right here on CNN.
We'll be right back.
ACOSTA: Today, we're seeing many heartfelt tributes to those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks.
But one man's tribute to his firefighter brother literally has been a journey of several hundred miles that ended today in lower Manhattan.
CNN's Jason Carroll has that story.
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One might say that with every step Frank Siller takes, he comes one step closer to honoring the memory of his brother, Stephen.
FRANK SILLER, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, TUNNEL TO TOWERS: Everyone thought he was their best friend. You want to know why? Because he treated everybody that way.
CARROLL (on camera): He sounds like a wonderful man.
(voice-over): Stephen Siller was a New York City firefighter who, on the morning of 9/11, had just finished his shift with Brooklyn Squad One.
He went back to work after learning a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center's North Tower. Siller grabbed his gear and drove toward Manhattan. When he saw the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel was closed, he got out and ran
through the tunnel with 60 pounds of gear on his back toward the Twin Towers.
Stephen was one of more than 300 New York City firefighters killed that day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, Frank, way to go!
CARROLL: Now his brother, Frank, is paying tribute to him --
CARROLL: -- by trekking more than 500 miles through six states in six weeks to honor not only his brother, but all the heroic first responders from that day.
(on camera): How did you get the idea to do something like this?
SILLER: Well, I was -- I know I was going to do something with walking because --
CARROLL: Why -- why walking?
SILLER: Because walking is very therapeutic. And I like only doing things if it -- if it has meaning. It just has to be the right thing.
And once I thought of that, I said, oh, my God, that's it. I didn't know how many miles it was and I didn't care, but I knew it was the right thing to do.
CARROLL (voice over): On August 1st, Siller began his journey at the Pentagon.
SILLER: Our first mission is to make sure we never forget what happened 20 years ago.
CARROLL: Twenty days later, he made it to Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
The week after that, Hershey, Pennsylvania --
SILLER: Thank you. God bless you.
CARROLL: -- where word of his journey had started to spread.
(on camera): Emotionally, I'm just wondering how this walk has affected you.
SILLER: Look, every day was very emotional. And many times, I've broken down and cried privately. You know, I just can't help myself because -- and I don't know what moment it's going to be. And I don't know what little thing was going to trigger it.
CARROLL (voice over): Last week, Morristown, New Jersey.
(MUSIC) CARROLL: This week, it's New York City.
SILLER: I like that. Let's be happy. Let's be happy.
CARROLL: Throughout it all, never missing a step, walking a little every day, sometimes with a group, or alone.
And when the weather was not so great, at times talking to his brother, Stephen.
SILLER: Yes, I laugh at the rain. I laughed at the heat. Whatever my brother wanted to throw my way because he was a big buster.
CARROLL (on camera): Really?
SILLER: Oh, he was a -- he liked to bust chops. And so whatever he threw my way, I laughed. I said, Stephen, I know what you're doing. I know what you're doing.
CARROLL (voice over): The final and most challenging leg comes this Saturday, September 11th.
(on camera): What do you think you'll be thinking about when you walk through the tunnel, the tunnel that your brother walked through on that day?
SILLER: I've been -- I've been looking forward to it and dreading it at the same time because I know how much I'll be overcome with emotion.
CARROLL (voice over): But he says he's ready to complete his walk and carry the memories of his brother and the other men and women who lost their lives that day.
ACOSTA: Thanks so much to Jason for that report.
With cervical cancer killing thousands of women in countries around the world, this week's "CNN Hero" left her Beverly hills practice in Los Angeles to begin a mission to eradicate cervical cancer globally, one woman at a time.
Meet Dr. Patricia Gordon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translation): She will treat free of charge.
DR. PATRICIA GORDON, CNN HERO: There are 350,000 women dying a painful, undignified deaths globally. And it's almost 100 percent preventable.
So this is everything you need to screen and treat a patient.
We bring in these big suitcases.
GORDON: We teach local health care professionals the see-and-treat technique.
At the end of the week of training, we pack up that suitcase and give it to the nurses that are going back to their clinics.
Within a day, we can literally save 20 or 30 lives, depending on the number of women we screen.
That there are 8,000 women who are alive and well and able to provide for their families is, honestly, the most rewarding thing that I could have ever imagined in my life.
I think I'm the luckiest doctor that ever lived.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Go to CNNheroes.com right now to learn Dr. Gordon's full story and see her in action.
ACOSTA: You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Acosta in Washington.
Where were you on 9/11? It's a simple and pointed question that echoes across America, spanning generations and now decades.
On this 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, President Biden and the first lady attended a wreath laying ceremony at the Pentagon a short time ago.
It was his final ceremony of the day filled with reflections and sacrifice and resolve.