President Biden commemorates anniversary of 9/11 attacks at memorial in Anchorage

President Joe Biden spoke at Joint Base Elemendorf- Richardson Monday afternoon Commemorating 9/11. September 11, 2023. (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media)
President Joe Biden speaks at a 9/11 memorial held at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage on Sept. 11, 2023. (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media)

President Joe Biden led a memorial at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage Monday on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. He described that day, 22 years ago.

“My fellow Americans, September 11, 2001 tested our strength, our resolve and our courage,” Biden said. “The billowing smoke and ash, the dark and the clear blue sky that September day. Those shredded steel concrete slabs that rained down from the World Trade Center. The plume of fire that shot up in the sky and Pentagon.”

Biden stopped at JBER on his way back from the G20 summit in India and a diplomatic visit to Vietnam. 

He spoke for more than 15 minutes in a hangar filled with Alaska-based military members and their families, as well as more than a dozen politicians and policymakers, including Gov. Mike Dunleavy, U.S. Congresswoman Mary Peltola and Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson. 

A man in a blue suit walks up to the podium.
President Joe Biden walks up to the podium at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media)

The president said though JBER was thousands of miles away from the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the distance “did not dull or diminish the pain.”

“We know that on this day, 22 years ago from this base, we were scrambled on high alert to escort planes through the airspace,” the president said. “Alaskan communities opened their doors to stranded passengers. American flags sold out in every store, were placed in front of seemingly every home.”

Biden decried terrorism — not only foreign, but domestic and ideological violence as well. He also used the remembrance to call for national unity. 

“That’s how we truly honor those we lost on 9/11,” Biden said. “By remembering what we can do together. To remember what was destroyed, what we repaired. What was threatened, that we fortified. What was attacked, and an indomitable American spirit prevailed over all of it.”

A woman and her son listen to a speech.
A woman and her son listen to President Joe Bidens remarks at Joint Base Elmendor-Richardson. (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media)

Biden’s stop in Anchorage comes five days after his administration canceled oil leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a move blasted by Alaska’s congressional delegation and Gov. Dunleavy. In the president’s remarks, he sought to find some common ground with the Republican governor: their hometown.

“We’re both from Scranton, Pennsylvania,” Biden said. “I wish I had him playing in my high school ball club when I was playing. I could’ve been an All-American having you in front of me.”

Dunleavy spoke before the president, and while he didn’t mention ANWR, he did note Alaska’s strategic military position in the world. 

“Parts of Alaska are just 2.4 miles away from one of our nearest neighbors, Russia,” Dunleavy said. “Servicemen and women here at JBER intercept Russian fighters on a regular basis. Alaska is also within reach of Korean missiles, and Chinese warships ply the waters just off our coast.” 

a man in a suit
Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks at the 9/11 memorial on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media)

Rep. Peltola spoke ahead of the president’s remarks as well. While she also didn’t mention ANWR, she spoke about resource extraction in Alaska broadly, calling Alaska energy, “one of our nation’s best defenses against foreign aggression.”

“Today our president is returning from meeting partners in Asia, who seek independence from the influence of authoritarian states,” Peltola said, “and see Alaska’s resources as a means of achieving their own freedom, showing that America remains a beacon of hope around the world.”

After his remarks, the president shook hands with audience members for nearly an hour before departing on Air Force One back to Washington, D.C.

A man in a suit takes pictures with soldiers
President Joe Biden takes a selfie. (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media)

Watch the full remarks:

Wesley Early covers Anchorage life and city politics for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at and follow him on X at @wesley_early. Read more about Wesley here.

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