Jill Biden shares memories of 9/11 as wife, sister and more

WASHINGTON (AP) – When Jill Biden realized that terrorists had attacked America on Sept. 11, 2001, her husband, Joe, wasn’t the only loved one whose safety she worried about.

Biden recalled being “scared to death” that her sister Bonnie Jacobs, a United Airlines flight attendant, was in one of the four hijackings that flew into New York’s World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania, killing nearly 3,000 people.

After learning her sister was safe at her home in Pennsylvania, “I went straight to Bonny’s house,” Biden told The Associated Press on Saturday as she and her sister recalled that day.

On Sunday, Jill Biden, now first lady, will mark the 21st anniversary of the 9/11 attacks by speaking at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania — accompanied by Jacobs.

The 40 passengers and crew of a United Airlines flight fought off their hijackers, preventing a terrifying attack on the US Capitol in Washington.

“I called Bonny to see where she was because I was scared to death … I didn’t know where she was, if she was flying, if she wasn’t flying, where she was,” Jill Biden recalled. “And then I found out he was home.”

Biden had gone to teach her class at Delaware Technical Community College and then went straight to her sister’s house after school dismissed.

Joe Biden, then a US senator, was on an Amtrak train headed to Washington when his wife reached him. He was on the phone when she screamed, “Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God” after a plane hit the second tower of the World Trade Center.

Jacobs said she had returned home around 2 a.m. on Sept. 11 after a delayed flight. She slept a little, got up to help her children, then 11 and 7, to school, turned off her phone and went back to bed.

“Well, when I got up around noon, it was a great day,” he said. “I drank my coffee. I sat outside. I literally said out loud, “I’m not doing anything today, this day is great.”

He saw the phone ringing when he walked in. Jill had left a message asking if she was watching TV. He opened it and saw replays of the attack on the World Trade Center.

“I started shaking,” Jacobs said, adding that she went upstairs to get dressed and “put my clothes on” and spent the rest of the day watching TV.

“And then the first person to come home was Jill,” she said. “I hadn’t invited her to come, but she just showed up and was there for me, as usual.”

Jacobs said she usually flies on the anniversary of 9/11 to pay tribute to her fallen colleagues at United Airlines and as a way to distract herself “because it’s so upsetting.” But she wanted to be with the first lady in Shanksville to offer the same support her big sister has given her.

“It’s such a special moment to be with her,” Jacobs said. “She was there for me when it happened and actually she’s always there for me. She’s my rock. Everyone should have a rock in their life, and she’s mine.”

“And it’s kind of special to share that with her as a flight attendant and for her to be there, you know, supporting us,” Jacobs said.

In addition to laying a wreath at the memorial service and giving speeches, the first lady joined members of the Flight Attendant Association-CWA to honor the Flight 93 crew members.

In her prepared remarks for Sunday, Jill Biden says that after the shock of 9/11 “settled into grief” and she spoke with her husband and children, her thoughts turned to her sister, who continues to work as a flight attendant at United. Airlines.

“It’s a job she’s loved for many years, and I knew the weight of this tragedy would be heavier on her,” says the first lady. “When I got to her house, I realized I was right. She hadn’t just lost colleagues. He had lost friends.”

He adds: “But I know that as we learned more about that dark day, he felt proud of what happened here too, proud that it was the fellow flight attendants and passengers on United Flight 93 who fought back, who helped stop the plane from to take an untold number of lives in our nation’s capital.”

Joe Biden, now president, was to commemorate the day at the Pentagon. Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, were to be in New York City.

On 9/11, then-Sen. Biden arrived in Washington to see smoke in the sky from the Pentagon crash. He wanted to go to the Senate floor, but the Capitol and the surrounding complex of offices and official buildings, including the Supreme Court, had been evacuated.

It was turned away by Capitol Police, who said there was a risk the building would become a target.

Jill Biden said dozens of lives were saved — possibly including her husband’s — by the actions of all the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93.

“That plane was headed for the U.S. Capitol, and so I think it’s important every year to go to Shanksville and remember those who fought: the flight attendants, the captains, the pilots, all those who fought to save those lives.” the first lady said in the interview.

She said her message on Sunday would be: “We will never forget. We will never forget.”

“There were so many things swirling that day because I was worried about Joe’s safety, but I couldn’t imagine my sister being on one of those flights,” the first lady said.

“I don’t know what word I want to use. I was so worried and I don’t think it’s strong enough,” she added.

Jacobs interjected that 9/11 was “surreal.”

Jill Biden added: “The whole thing was so surreal, but I was just, you know, really praying that he wasn’t on one of those flights.”

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