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Somber Memorials Held At Ground Zero, Pentagon And Shanksville; Survivors Recount Memories From Ground Zero; Interview With Rep. Carlos Gimenez (R-FL); Man Who Threatened To Shoot Speaker Pelosi Pleads Guilty; How The Sports World Helped America Heal After 9/11. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired September 11, 2021 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: President Biden and the First Lady attended a wreath laying ceremony at The Pentagon a short time ago. It was his final ceremony of a day filled with reflections and sacrifice, and resolve.
In Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the President and First Lady honored the heroes of United Flight 93. They overpowered their hijackers and spared the nation's capital the terrorists intended target.
At New York's Ground Zero, amid the sound of bagpipes and the names of fallen, children honor relatives they never met growing up in a world forever changed that day. Adults hugged and cried giving into their grief, the sounds and images, losing none of their sting all these years later.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Twenty years feels like an eternity, but yet, it still feels like yesterday. Until we meet again, my love, rest in peace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Most moving and most terrifying, perhaps most meaningful accounts of what happened on 9/11 are of course told by the people who were there, the people who survived. One of those survivors, Joe Dittmar is with me now.
Joe, thanks so much for being with us. You were on the 105th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center 20 years ago today. Unfortunately, very few people on floors as high as the one you were on are with us today. Take us back to that moment.
The tower was struck. It was the tower beside you that was struck. What did it sound like? What did it feel like? Did you realize what had happened? What was going through your mind?
JOE DITTMAR, ESCAPED 105th FLOOR OF SOUTH TOWER ON 9/11: That's the incredible part for us, Jim. We were in an enclosed conference room on 105 with four walls and no windows and a door. And so when that building was struck, our lights flickered. We didn't see, feel, or hear anything, just that flicker of lights.
But the good fortune would have it, a gentleman from the company we were visiting came in and coerced us all 54 of us to leave that conference room and head to the closest fire stairwell, which is what we all did.
And I know everybody got out of that room, because I was the last guy out.
ACOSTA: Wow, and 17 minutes later your tower was hit, what was that moment like?
DITTMAR: Oh my gosh. You know, the -- you're in this fire stairwell, which is nothing more than a concrete bunker. This thing all of a sudden starts to shake back and forth so violently, the concrete spidering out, the handrails breaking away from the wall. The steps were like waves in the ocean, undulating underneath our feet.
We feel this heat ball blowing by us. We smell this jet fuel, and this thing just keeps rocking back and forth, back and forth. It felt like forever. Maybe it was seconds, maybe a minute, and you would think, we would have responded with pandemonium, but we all responded with basically a stunned silence.
ACOSTA: And you said, quote: "The sound of hundreds, thousands maybe tens of thousands of people on the streets of New York all screaming the same blood curdling scream all at the same time. It's the first thing I hear in the morning. It's the last thing I hear at night, every day. It doesn't go away." Does this anniversary 20 years later feel different?
DITTMAR: I wish I could say yes, but this is no different than the day after September 12, 2001. It is a circumstance that we've lived through, we've seen things. It's always going to be with us, the whole experience, the whole horror, the whole terror, but survivors like myself, we have to be able to manage that circumstance and that's what we choose to do.
I choose to do it by talking the way I am talking with you tonight about this and about the experience.
ACOSTA: And when were you able to contact your family that day?
DITTMAR: Yes, it was -- it was quite wild because the main cell tower for all Southern Manhattan was out with the North Tower being struck and landlines were overmatched. It took almost five to five and a half hours to finally get ahold of someone.
Landlines were just really tough to get and cell service was bad. The first person I got was my mom. And I always kid and say, calling your mom is like calling CNN because everybody is going to know, okay. And it was great that she was able to start communicating.
The most important call I wanted to make was to my wife. I didn't get her until about the seventh hour. I know that she knew I was out, but I don't think she believed it until she got that phone call from me.
ACOSTA: In the last hour, I spoke with widow, Terry Strada who lost her husband in the attacks. She said she would like to see this country go back to September 12th, meaning how close people were, how united this country was.
Do you remember it that way? And do you long for that?
DITTMAR: Yes, I do. I certainly long for that. We've heard it a lot today from the President, from the Vice President, from lots of other speakers. You know, our strength is in our unity and it is really, really true.
We saw it in the building, when that building was struck, and we were in that fire stairwell, there were people in there that were in real need coming off of crutches or canes or out of a wheelchair. And guys, just like you and me, were helping these people down the steps, both physically and emotionally.
And that right there, that togetherness, there was no black or white. There was no Jew or Christian, there was no red or blue, it was just human beings. And that's what we need to strive to every day.
ACOSTA: How do we get back there?
DITTMAR: I'm not sure. I keep doing good things is what I keep talking about doing. Keep telling the story about that unity, about that togetherness, about the way the country was able to gel together, and the more I can talk about it, the more I have the opportunity, too.
I can only hope if one person hears me and passes on to somebody else. I think we've just got to understand, like we said that our strength is in that unity. We don't have to be uniform, like the Vice President said, we just have to unify and that's what we've got to do.
ACOSTA: That's what we have to do. No question about it. Joe Dittmar, thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate it. And thanks for telling your story tonight.
DITTMAR: I appreciate you -- I appreciate you having me. Thanks a lot.
ACOSTA: Thanks so much.
Many Americans who survived Ground Zero talked to me about what they saw this week. Each individual story is different, but there is commonality; 9/11 for them wasn't just one day, it has been a lifelong experience.
ACOSTA (voice over): Twenty years later at Ground Zero, the grief is still palpable.
Here in lower Manhattan where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center once stood, the lives lost are never forgotten, thanks to a community of survivors keeping the memories of the fallen alive. Now retired New York City firefighter, Brian McGuire, was working as a paramedic that day as he watched the second plane slam into the towers before rushing to the scene. Within hours, friends he considered family were gone along with the nearly 3,000 people who died on 9/11 in New York, at The Pentagon, and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
BRIAN MCGUIRE, RETIRED NEW YORK CITY FIREFIGHTER: Eleven members from Rescue 5 were killed the morning of September 11th. Mike was driving Lt. Harvey Harrell -- all these members here worked the night into the day or the day tour, and they killed all 11. There was only one survivor from that firehouse that day, Billy Spade and I was honored to see him last week.
ACOSTA: He is still with us.
MCGUIRE: Still with us, yes. Bill is my hero.
They were all great guys. Lieutenant Harvey Harrell, Jeff Palazzo. He was a younger member of the company. He was actually also in the Coast Guard. Nikky Rossomando. His nickname was Nikky Love. He had the biggest smile on his face. You will never see a man with a bigger smile.
John Bergen, big football player for the fire department team. He was getting ready to open up a bar a few weeks before the World Trade Center happened.
All great guys.
MCGUIRE: Never forget, it's like yesterday. We miss our friends.
ACOSTA (voice over): McGuire now works with other first responders to help access the Federal funds available to treat the 9/11 related illnesses like cancer plaguing tens of thousands of police officers, firefighters, and other survivors to this day.
ACOSTA (on camera): It must still affect you to think about the people who were lost here. What comes to mind?
MCGUIRE: Every day. We're the lucky ones. A lot of our friends had died from 9/11 from cancer. It affects every firefighter, every first responder every day. I'm happy to wake up and be with my family.
ACOSTA (voice over): Then there are the lower Manhattan office workers who just happened to be caught up in the chaos of the crashing towers and the aftermath. Some of them are still showing up at health fairs to learn about how they can get help, too.
Ken Miller was diagnosed with kidney cancer years after he walked through the dust that coated everything in sight. KEN MILLER, 9/11 SURVIVOR: When I finally got home that night, my wife said that I was covered with dust everywhere. By the time I left in the late -- like around five or six o'clock that day. Water Street was six inches of like, it looked like snow, it was six inches of ash down Water Street and that's pretty far from the World Trade Center site itself.
ACOSTA: Attorney Michael Barasch now works with the survivors battling the lingering health fallout.
MICHAEL BARASCH, ATTORNEY FOR 9/11 SURVIVORS: I was down here, even after the E.P.A. told us the air was safe, I knew it wasn't. But they told us it was so I wanted to believe it, I wanted to do my part and reopened my office.
And ever since, my secretary, Leanna died at age 47 of breast cancer. My paralegal, Dennis also at 47 died of kidney cancer. Five other people in my office got cancer. I mean, it's -- we're a microcosm of every other office, and at least we know about these programs, the vast majority don't.
ACOSTA (voice over): So many of these stories are also told at the 9/11 Museum, where columns from the Trade Center and a mutilated fire engine stand silently as vivid reminders of the violence unleashed on 9/11. But Museum President Alice Greenwald says there is a message for visitors that towers over everything, that there once was a time when the nation came together and stood united.
ALICE GREENWALD, 9/11 MUSEUM President: This attitude of it isn't about me, it is about us, that we are in this together, that we can help one another, that we can be of service to our community and our nation -- that's a lesson I want people to come away from this museum thinking about, particularly at a moment when we are so polarized, and so fragmented as a society.
We know how to do that.
The question we want people to ask themselves is does it take an event like 9/11 to remind us how to be the human beings we have the capability of being.
This past year, we saw a little bit of the same thing in response to COVID. Those people standing on their balconies, clapping and cheering at seven o'clock every night in New York for the frontline responders. That was 9/12. That was that moment.
ACOSTA (on camera): It was fleeting though.
GREENWALD: And when you come to -- it was fleeting, again. So, I think the task we have as human beings is to ask ourselves, what is it that gets us to be what we have the capability of being as good human beings?
ACOSTA (voice over): The lessons from 9/11 are also being passed from parents to their children. As Brian McGuire told us, his teenage son is now preparing to become a firefighter, just like his dad. MCGUIRE: My son is 18 years old, he wasn't born. But just seeing what I'm going through, I think he understands how it is still affecting people today. And I'm glad he is taking my footsteps to be a fireman.
He just graduated the Fire Academy, he is going to be a firefighter and I'm proud to see that he is going to carry the firefighting tradition on in our family.
ACOSTA: McGuire also remembers the sense of unity and patriotism that rose from the ashes in the days following 9/11.
MCGUIRE: Hundreds of people, hundreds of people were waving American flags.
ACOSTA: Twenty years later, the survivors of 9/11 are fighting to keep that memory alive, too.
ACOSTA (on camera): And our thanks to everybody down there for telling their story. I appreciate it.
He was a Ground Zero rescue worker, now a U.S. lawmaker. Next, we will talk to Congressman Carlos Gimenez about the 20-year anniversary, the first without U.S. troops on the ground in Afghanistan. He has a unique story to tell as well.
You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
ACOSTA: As New York City buildings disintegrated on 9/11, it was clear, the scope of the rescue and recovery effort would be unprecedented. All told, it took three million hours of labor to clean up nearly two million tons of debris.
I want to bring in Florida Republican Congressman Carlos Gimenez. He is a former Fire Chief and worked search and rescue operations at Ground Zero with the Florida Emergency Task Force that rushed to New York City after the attacks.
Congressman, I'm so glad you're able to talk to us about your experience because people may forget or may not know all these firefighters, all these rescuers who came across the country to help out.
REP. CARLOS GIMENEZ (R-FL): Yes, there was a number -- there were hundreds of firefighters from all around the country that came. Florida Task Force 2, which is a team I created was called upon by F.E.M.A. to go up along with Florida Task Force 1, I guess all the Florida -- all of the task forces from F.E.M.A. were called there to search for the victims initially, search, and then recover, you know, afterwards.
GIMENEZ: And so it was my -- it was my honor to be with them on September 21st, 10, days after the attack, we were on the pile and they were working. And I was there, at the time I was actually the City Manager of the City of Miami, and I was there along with my Fire Chief to show our support and work with them and make sure that they had everything they needed to get the job done.
ACOSTA: And we're looking at some pictures that you sent along of your crew there at the scene. What was that work like? What do people need to understand about what that work was like?
GIMENEZ: That work was incredibly dangerous. You know, you don't get the scale of this -- of the site and the disaster, unless you were actually there. I mean, there were voids that if you took a wrong step, you're going to fall about 60 feet and seriously injure yourself and not kill yourself, and so it was incredibly dangerous.
I also recall telling the Fire Chief, me and my friends said, hey, there's really some bad stuff in the air here and we need to make sure that our people are protected as much as possible. You know, little did we know that years later, you know, they have over 250 New York City firefighters that were working on that site that died subsequent to it, because of all the things that they breathed in, and all the different cancers that have sprung from all those people that actually were trying to, you know, work on that site.
And so, you know, there's more than just 343 firefighters that died. There's another 250 firefighters who have died subsequent to that. There are also victims of 9/11 we can never forget the sacrifices they made also.
ACOSTA: And tell me why? Why did you go? Why did you and the men that you work with pick up and just go to help?
GIMENEZ: Well, that's what firefighters do. You know, firefighters go in. When people are running out, firefighters go in. And as I was watching, you know, the events unfold, and I was watching those towers fall, you know, I turned over to again, the Fire Chief, my Fire Chief who was there with me, and I said, a lot of firefighters just lost their lives.
And you know, all those firefighters knew what they were getting into. They all knew what the chances were, that there was a good chance they would not come out alive if they all went in.
And so when we were called upon to help those firefighters try to find some of them, find the people that are caught in the rubble and then later recover them, that's what firefighters do, not just in New York, they'll do it, all firefighters across the nation.
We are about the same breed. It's a brotherhood and a sisterhood, and that's what we do. And we respond to -- when people are running out, we run in, and we do our duty.
ACOSTA: Yes, when I was down at Ground Zero this week, I ran into a big tall firefighter named Dennis, who -- he was up there helping pay tribute to the firefighters and the other first responders who lost their lives that day.
Can we talk about this issue of unity in the United States? This is something that several of our guests today have talked about, Congressman. How do we get back? And I know you know this, because you were there. How do we get back to that day?
Maybe we won't get back. But how can we recapture that spirit of a country coming together like we did in the days after 9/11? Or is that too -- is that too naive to think that that could happen? That that only occurs after a catastrophic event? What do you think?
GIMENEZ: Look what happened on 9/11 and 9/12, we were all Americans. We were all united as one, and that's the difference between then and now. Right now, we have too many forces trying to accentuate the differences among us, instead of saying, hey, these are some of the shared values that we have as Americans and there's more than unites us than pulls us apart.
But unfortunately, we have way too many people and way too many entities that really want to accentuate the negatives and also -- not the negatives, just the differences, instead of, you know, what unites us as a nation.
You know, this nation always comes together in times just like, you know, 9/11. Just like, you know, the day after Pearl Harbor. You know, 85 percent of the people back in World War II did not want to enter World War II on December 6th. On December 7th, we all united and we had a common cause and that's the same thing that happened on September 11th.
I hope that we don't need such an event to get back to being a more unified country. We'll never be completely unified, but a more unified country. But you know, unfortunately, there are folks and forces that are trying to separate us.
ACOSTA: You know, former President George W. Bush made some comments that jumped out to a lot of folks today. He was comparing domestic extremists with foreign extremists. Let's play a little bit of that, and I'll just get your quick thought on that on the other side.
(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 little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home, 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: I know you are greatly concerned about what you saw and experienced on January 6. Your thoughts on what the former President had to say today that message that he chose to put into that speech?
GIMENEZ: Well, I think, look, we have extremists on both sides, an extremism on either side should be condemned. All acts of violence need to be condemned. And so, I think that the President is right. We have extremists that are inside our country, you know, right now.
What their ideology is, is really, to me not that important. It is what they are trying to do to this country, and again, what they're trying to do to this country is trying to tear us apart, which is what I spoke to, you know, before.
We have to remember, as a nation that we are one nation, that we are all Americans, and that we have a shared, you know, set of values and that's what we need to focus in on and then reject those extremes from the right or the left that are trying to tear us apart.
ACOSTA: Congressman Carlos Gimenez, thank you so much for your time. Thanks for sharing your experience about 9/11. It's an important lesson for everybody to see the nation coming together. We appreciate it. Thanks for your time.
GIMENEZ: Thank you.
ACOSTA: All right, former President George W. Bush, as we were just mentioning today, in his 9/11 speech, calling out domestic terrorists equating the U.S. Capitol rioters, it seemed in that moment to foreign terrorists. This as more insurrectionists plead guilty. A live report next.
ACOSTA: As we mentioned before the break, former President George W. Bush used the 9/11 anniversary to call out homegrown violent extremists. His comments come as more guilty pleas roll in from those accused of taking part in the January 6th insurrection, among the latest, seven defendants to plead guilty as a man who threatened to shoot House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Authorities say he texted a relative that he was thinking about attending an event Pelosi would be at and 'putting a bullet in her noggin on live TV'.
CNN's Marshall Cohen joins me now. Marshall, what kind of sentence is this man facing right now?
MARSHALL COHEN, CNN REPORTER: Jim, he could get as much as five years in prison, but it probably will be a little bit less than that. His name is Cleveland Meredith, Jr. He pleaded guilty to one count, so just one crime of making these threats against Speaker Pelosi.
They weren't empty words, Jim. He came here to Washington, D.C. from Colorado in his truck. He had guns, ammunition and then he sent these threats. So it could be five years based off of the law. Prosecutors though at the Justice Department, as part of the plea deal, they said they won't ask for more than two years when sentencing comes with the judge.
And I should point out he has been in jail all year, so he's probably going to argue that he should get credit for time served, so we'll see.
ACOSTA: Yes. And where do things stand with the other defendants right now?
COHEN: So there's about 600 of them, more than 600 of them. About 10 percent have pleaded guilty already. Look, some of the most serious cases, the really severe stuff, assaulting police, bear spray, using a flagpole to beat the daylights out of police officers. Those folks haven't really made it to the end of the process. They're still waiting.
So we won't expect to see heavy sentences get handed out quite yet, but we have seen about a few dozen guilty pleas so far. And look, people are taking responsibility, some of them. And others are still sticking to their story that this was a setup, that it was the FBI, that it was antifa.
So we're really seeing the two different types of rioters. Ones that are ready to accept responsibility and move on and others that are still sticking to this extremist narrative that's causing so much danger and chaos in our society.
ACOSTA: Yes, those conspiracy theories, alternative facts, that's not going to work in a courtroom. Marshall Cohen, all right, thanks so much for that report. We appreciate it.
Right now, the nation is marking the first 9/11 anniversary without U.S. troops on the ground in Afghanistan. Tomorrow night, CNN's Jake Tapper takes a closer look at America's war and asks the thought questions, the tough questions I should say about what went wrong. Here's a preview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two trillion dollars, thousands of lives lost.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Was the war worth it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Before I go to my grave, I would like that question answered.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What went wrong in Afghanistan?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think we had a good definition of winning.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Corruption was one of the reasons of how things turned out.
TAPPER: Was Pakistan our enemy? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, but Pakistan was not our friend.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The tough questions that still need answers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If everybody gets an A, but the over effort still an F, who do we hold accountable?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: It's been 20 years to the day now since the terror attacks of 9/11, the day that paralyzed our nation. But it was the world of sports that in many ways helped America get back on its feet. This afternoon, I spoke to the man who led the New York Yankees to four World Series victories, former manager Joe Torre.
I asked him about that unforgettable moment when then-President George W. Bush threw out the first pitch a few weeks after the attacks.
JOE TORRE, FORMER NEW YORK YANKEES MANAGER: I remember everything, pretty much everything. There were rumors that he was going to be there and we had just come in from Arizona. We had lost the first two games of the World Series. And what's interesting, Jim, is both managers and both general managers always meet in the umpire's dressing room before the first game in that particular ballpark.
We did it in Arizona and we were doing it here at Yankee Stadium. And you walk in and you do the ritual, you shake hands with everybody, the six umpires who have the game and all of a sudden there was an umpire I didn't recognize. Come to find out later on, well, actually I saw it there, was a secret service, man and he was dressed as an umpire.
And I think I mentioned something about, obviously he was armed. And try to bring some levity to the thing I said, it's about time they armed you guys and them, meaning the umpires. But it was powerful and I was at the end of the runway, coming from the clubhouse to the dugout and I welcome President Bush.
And he comes, I mean, charging out and says to me, he says, "Joe," he said, "you're going to kick their butts tonight?" And I said, "Well, I hope so." And with that he would pass me and briskly up the steps and right to the mound. And found out later, obviously, he went to the top of the mound and pitch from the pitcher's rubber.
And he had warmed up with Derek Jeter in the batting cage underneath the stands. And, of course, an only Jeter's drive with said to the President, he says, "Where are you going to throw the first pitch from?" He said, "If you don't throw it from the top of the mound, they're going to boo you. This is Yankee Stadium."
And he said, "And another thing, don't bounce it." And so the President had a little bit of a bit of pressure put on him by our captain. But he went out there and threw a strike and, again, came off the mound and everybody cheered him. It was a great moment for everybody, because it was sort of a security blanket after 9/11 and not too far after 9/11 that the President of the United States chose coming to throw out the first pitch in New York instead of Arizona, because of what happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Our thanks to Joe Torre.
Coming up, 9/11 taught us about unity. So why, 20 years later, do we seem more divided than ever? Some thoughts ahead.
But first, the man who was president that day 20 years ago, on the heroic passengers of United Airlines Flight 93.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Twenty years ago, terrorists chose a random group of Americans on a routine flight to be collateral damage in a spectacular act of terror. 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.
The terrorists soon discovered that a random group of Americans is an exceptional group of people facing an impossible circumstance. They comforted their loved ones by phone, braced each other for action and defeated the designs of evil.
These Americans were brave, strong and united in ways that shocked the terrorists but should not surprise any of us. This is the nation we know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Much has been said about how this country came together in the days after 9/11. Forgive me for a few moments as I offer my own reflections. I'll never forget the moment when I saw the second plane hit the World Trade Center. I was working as a reporter in Chicago at the time.
But for days after September 11th 2001, I would wake up in the morning and ask myself, did that really happen? Maybe you did that too.
I remember President George W. Bush with his bullhorn following the U.S. would respond.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BUSH: I can hear you. I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: In the weeks following 9/11, I covered the heroic efforts at Ground Zero and saw the workers standing on the pile. I cannot erase the images in my mind of the photos of missing people taped to ATM machines. I also remember the country coming together. Firefighters and police officers across the country traveled to New York to lend a hand.
Lawmakers from both parties stood on the steps of the Capitol and saying, "God bless America." Brave soldiers went to Afghanistan to hunt down the terrorists who attacked this country. Our allies joined us, we were united.
It was a remarkable time because for a while there weren't two realities or two Americas. Generally, we knew what happened that day. We knew what needed to be done. There was talk of a post 9/11 world, our lives change. There were small sacrifices for most of us, we had to accept additional security at the airports. Other Americans like the rescuers from 9/11 and our men and women in the armed forces sacrificed so much more. But somewhere and it's hard to pinpoint exactly when we lost our way.
We turned away from Afghanistan and invaded Iraq, a costly distraction that prolonged the war. Our servicemembers and their families had to deal with multiple deployments to wars that felt endless. We had a financial crisis that almost triggered another Great Depression and laid bare the vast inequities in our society.
Yes, there were historic moments that made so many Americans proud. America elected the first black president. The U.S. did hunt down Osama bin Laden. But something else happened to us. We didn't just become divided, we let hate into our hearts for each other. There was an expression used after 9/11, all gave some, some gave all.
We don't really do that anymore. Some of us don't want to give anything at all. We live in separate worlds now. We don't agree on the same facts anymore. We can't even agree on wearing masks or getting vaccinated to end this pandemic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our children, our choice.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My kids can't be vaccinated. Mask up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You (inaudible) hit me in the mouth. You almost hit me in the mouth.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You spit on me. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't spit on you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You did so, you had your mask ...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: In the last two days, more people die from COVID than on 9/11. Maybe we should put the virus on the list of most wanted terrorists in this country. It's a war. Let's win it.
We don't hold hands and sing in unison on the Capitol steps anymore. Far from it, our divisions have exposed a different vulnerability than the one exploited on 9/11. We appear to be capable of destroying ourselves. It's a dark reality that sadly, we all share.
Tonight, I have a thought, instead of focusing on what divides us, the masks, the vaccines and the rest, spend some time on one thing that hopefully unites all of us, this hallowed ground, and our love for the people who died there. The lights at Ground Zero rising from the darkness and into the heavens and memory of those who gave all.
May we also remember how we came together in the days after 9/11. Never forget, never forget we can be this country again. As those lights soar into the sky tonight, let's hope.
That's the news reporting from Washington. I'm Jim Acosta. I'll see you back here tomorrow at 4 pm Eastern. Up next, don't miss Victor Blackwell's special report Front Row to History, talking to the class President Bush was visiting when he first learned of the attacks.
In the meantime, never forget, have hope and good night.