Biden has always prided himself on his oratorical skills, which he had honed over time despite a childhood stutter. Sometimes, they worked to his benefit — like when he was hailed early in his career as the leader of a new generation of Democrats and presided over the Judiciary Committee during critical Supreme Court nomination hearings. Sometimes, his confidence in them was betrayed by the results, like when he went on a riff about Barack Obama’s articulateness during the 2008 primaries, or the countless other moments when he said something off the cuff that he later had to clarify. But never, prior to 9/11, had he attempted to apply those skills to a moment of national tragedy. People gather at the 9/11 Memorial on the first day that it has reopened after closing for three months because of the coronavirus on July 4, 2020 in New York City. | Spencer Platt/Getty Images When he stepped off the train that morning at roughly 10 a.m., Biden rushed the few blocks between Union Station and the Capitol. Off in the distance, smoke was rising in the air across the Potomac. Another plane, American Airlines Flight 77, had crashed into the Pentagon. A Capitol police officer stopped him at the entrance, refusing to let him into the building. Margaret Aitken, Biden’s press secretary at the time, met up with him on his way to the Capitol steps. She recalled Biden trying to find a way to get in front of the C-SPAN cameras on the Senate floor in order to say something that the public could find reassuring. “He wanted our country and the rest of the world to know that our government was still operational. That was extremely important to him at that time,” Aitken recalled. Part of Biden’s desire to speak that morning was driven by the fact that the other national figures couldn’t. Bush was still being kept away from D.C. for his safety, having spent the morning in a classroom in Florida promoting education and literacy. Then-Vice President Dick Cheney was in the presidential bunker. Biden, who had recently become the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was arguably the most senior foreign policy figure not in the executive branch. But those who have worked with Biden note he also believes firmly in his capacities to project calm and empathy in moments where those two notions seem lacking. Whereas some politicians find it difficult to comfort the afflicted, Biden has taken pride in his ability to do so. He has eulogized colleagues who have passed, given national addresses around moments of gun violence, and commemorated grim milestones around the Covid-19 pandemic. It is a role not every politician can play. And, as the day of 9/11 unfolded, it was not clear if Biden, or anyone, could either. Despite Biden’s protestations to Capitol police, he would never be allowed onto the Senate floor. Aides recalled, at that moment, that Biden looked at the jumble of lawmakers, staffers and tourists standing in shock after evacuating the Capitol and began going up to people individually, grabbing their shoulders, and sharing the message he wanted to share with the cameras: “We're going to be OK, we're going to be OK.” Former Rep. Bob Brady, a Pennsylvania Democrat, was with Biden that day. The two of them tried to convince other members of the legislative branch to team up and push for access to the Capitol to gavel Congress back into session, if only to signal that the government was unbowed. But after hours of trying, they gave up. Biden looked at Brady. “He said, ‘you got a car?’ I said, ‘yeah I got a car,” Brady told POLITICO. So the two lawmakers, a member of Brady’s staff and Biden’s brother, Jimmy — who had been in D.C. that day and made his way over to the Capitol — piled in a car together to head home. And then, Biden got what he had been looking for. On the way to the car, Biden ran into Linda Douglass, the Chief Capitol Hill Correspondent for ABC News at the time. She had recently been evacuated herself and was looking for a place to do a live shot and, more importantly, any senior government official to talk to. ”It was just such a relief to see somebody of his stature and seniority, able to talk to the country, which was in a state of terror and confusion,” said Douglass, who went on to become an aide to the Obama-Biden 2008 campaign. “That is the part of it that was significant to me: there were no other voices. There were no other leaders who were able to start reassuring the country.” Back at the studio, ABC news anchor Peter Jennings asked Biden about al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, who was already being discussed as the mastermind behind the attacks. “The tendency in these circumstances is to be too focused on one man, one idea, one prospect … I think it’s much too early for us to make those kinds of judgments,” Biden said. “This cannot be dealt with overnight. It’s an incredible tragedy. But it’s a new threat of the twenty-first century, and we will find a way to do it. ” After the interview . . . read the full article here.