Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden was riding a train into Washington and speaking by phone to his wife as the extent of the Sept. 11 attacks became clearer.
"What does it mean, Joe?" Jill Biden asked her husband, a Delaware senator, on Sept. 11, 2001.
On Thursday, Biden recalled that morning as he spoke to police, firefighters and other first responders at an American Legion post in suburban Cleveland. He said the actions of first responders on Sept. 11 defined for the world what it means to be an American.
"It’s a measure of who we are as a people that ordinary people did extraordinary things trying to save others," Biden said as he commemorated the seventh anniversary of the attacks.
The major parties’ candidates for president – Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama – agreed to tone down the political rhetoric Thursday as they joined the nation in observing the anniversary.
"This is not about politics today," Biden said. "This about our fallen heroes and a whole lot of people like the people here today."