As the nation commemorated the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks on Saturday, former president Donald J. Trump gave stirring remarks to a crowd gathered on the National Mall to observe the solemn occasion. In an address delivered on a video screen, the former president spoke to thousands of Americans congregated for a candlelit prayer ceremony hosted by Let Us Worship, a group founded last year in response to growing crackdowns on religious liberty.
“There could be no more fitting night for Americans to join hands and bow our heads in prayer than this evening,” said Trump. “Two decades after nearly 3,000 Americans were murdered at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in western Pennsylvania, we honor the memory of every innocent soul killed in the September 11 attacks. We cherish their legacy, and we reaffirm our everlasting vow to never forget.”
In his remarks, Trump thanked first responders, calling them “the very best of our nation,” and contrasted the “terrible day” of the 9/11 attacks with “the infinite source of our hope”—referring to God and the power of faith. He recalled the story of the chaplain of a New York City fire station who, moments following the strike of the first hijacked plane into the World Trade Center—rushed to the site of the attack standing and praying as people fell to their deaths. Just minutes later, Fr. Mychael Judge met his own death.
As Trump recalled, the day before the attacks, Fr. Judge implored a group of firefighters to “do what God called you to do.” He continued: “You have no idea what God is calling you to. But he needs you. He needs me. He needs all of us.” Using the story of Fr. Judge, Trump entreated those gathered in prayer on the National Mall to look to faith as the only proper response to tragedy: “Tonight, Father Mike’s words remind us that in the end, there is only one true answer to the depth of the evil we saw on September 11. It is God,” Trump said.
“That is the answer that stood tall over the wreckage at Ground Zero, where rescuers forged a mighty steel cross from the fallen towers’ broken beams. It is the same sight that was seen hundreds of miles away in Shanksville—where the first, spontaneous memorial to the heroes of Flight 93 was a simple but beautiful wooden cross. And it is this same turning to God—the ultimate answer to evil—that we see here today, as thousands of Americans gather on the mall to pray for our beloved nation and one another.”
According the group’s website, Let Us Worship was founded “to rise up with one voice and tell our government leaders and the rulers of big tech that we refuse to be silenced” as the “freedom to worship God and obey His Word has come under unprecedented attack.” “Powerful politicians and social media giants have engaged in unchartered abuses of religious liberty, silencing the faithful, banning our voices, and outright attacking our God-given right to declare His goodness,” the organization says, citing arbitrary social media censorship as well as some states’ rollbacks of religious freedom during the Covid-19 pandemic. Since the group’s founding, it has visited 132 cities across the country. Sean Feucht, a leader of the organization, said via Twitter that although he invited presidents Biden, Trump, Obama, and Bush to participate in the event, only Trump accepted his invitation.
Prior to the event on the Mall, Let Us Worship participants planted American flags on the graves of every servicemember who died in service to the United States since the September 11 attacks at Arlington National Cemetery. Also earlier in the day, Trump visited a police precinct and firehouse in Manhattan, where he met and spoke with law enforcement officials and firefighters.
President Biden traveled to all three sites of the September 11 attacks—Ground Zero in New York, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, PA—on Saturday, although he did not deliver live remarks from either location, marking a clear departure from presidential norms on September 11. Trump, on the other hand, spoke at 9/11 commemoration events all four years of his presidency (2017, 2018, 2019, 2020). Biden opted to release a prerecorded video on his social media channels. “We also saw something all too rare: a true sense of national unity. Unity and resilience—a capacity to recover and repair in the face of trauma,” the President said in the tape.
The Let Us Worship gathering on the Mall drew as many as 30,000 attendees and the organization held additional events in Washington throughout the weekend. Trump’s address can be viewed here.
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