Ever since the tragic events of September 11th, it has become customary for the president to observe the anniversary of those horrific attacks either at the White House or one of the locations that were targeted. However, this year, President Joe Biden has chosen to commemorate the occasion in Alaska, although the exact reason for this decision remains somewhat unclear.
Annually, in remembrance of the tragic events of September 11, 2001, when 2,977 lives were tragically lost due to acts of terrorism, the president has paid tribute to this solemn occasion. On two occasions, namely in 2005 with President George W. Bush and in 2015 with President Barack Obama, they participated in an understated ceremony held on the White House grounds.
In all other years, the head of state has journeyed to at least one of the three significant locations where the victims met their untimely demise: the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, or the field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where Flight 93 tragically crashed.
This year will see a departure from the norm. President Biden’s schedule includes attendance at the G20 summit in New Delhi, India, scheduled from September 7th to the 10th. Following that, he will visit Hanoi to engage in discussions on climate change with Vietnamese leader Nguyen Phu Trong before returning to the United States. However, his destination isn’t Washington, DC; instead, he will be flying to Alaska on September 11th.
During his time in Alaska, President Biden will participate in a ceremony held at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, which serves as the headquarters for Alaskan Command, a wing of the US Air Force and part of the 11th Airborne Division. This ceremony will mark the commemoration of 9/11, albeit from a distance of over 3,000 miles away from the original attack sites. Meanwhile, Vice President Harris will represent the administration at the National September 11 Memorial in Manhattan.
A week before the anniversary, President Biden was already facing criticism for this choice. Former New York Governor George Pataki (R) criticized the president, labeling him as a disgrace. He also humorously suggested that Biden’s avoidance of New York might be due to concerns about being questioned regarding the influx of illegal immigrants into the city.
It is equally plausible that Biden’s advisors are cautious about potential embarrassing remarks or gaffes from him during such a solemn occasion. Nonetheless, regardless of the reasons, Biden will be observing one of the nation’s most significant anniversaries at a remote military base, which is nearly as distant from the tragedy’s location as one can imagine.