President Biden struck a personal note in a recorded address to commemorate the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, beckoning Americans to embrace unity as they reflect on the day that two decades ago permanently reshaped the nation.
"In the days that followed September 11, 2001, we saw heroism everywhere — in places expected and unexpected," Biden said on Friday, the day before the anniversary of the attacks.
"We also saw something all too rare: a true sense of national unity."
Biden reflected on a childhood friend named Davis, who on Sept. 11 lost his eldest son in the attack on the South Tower of the World Trade Center, almost a year to the day after his youngest son had died in a boating accident.
"A few days later, I spoke to Davis, and talked as fathers who know," said Biden, who has had to bury two of his children.
"I was on my way to speak to the students at the University of Delaware about what to make of the new world we were in. [Davis] told me to tell people 'Don't be afraid,' " Biden said.
"The absolute courage it took after two unimaginable losses is extraordinary. Yet the most ordinary of American things."
Nearly 3,000 people died in the coordinated al-Qaida attacks, and thousands more have died from illnesses attributed to toxic exposure from that day.
The terror plot was the impetus behind America's invasion of Afghanistan, in which thousands of U.S. service members and contractors have been killed, as well as tens of thousands of Afghan citizens.
And while America did stand united against the evils of terrorism, not every American was viewed equally in the wake of the chaos, leading to a 500% increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes from 2000-2009, which Biden acknowledged in his remarks.
"We also witnessed the darker forces of human nature: fear and anger, resentment and violence against Muslim Americans, true and faithful followers of a peaceful religion," Biden said.
"We saw national unity bend. We learned that unity is the one thing that must never break. Unity is what makes us who we are: America at its best."