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9/11 Flashback: Biden Called for Resilience as Country Braced for Attacks

Then Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Senate Armed Services ranking Republican John Warner, R-Va., talk to media outside U.S. Capitol Police Headquarters in the early afternoon of September 11, 2001. Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- On the afternoon of 9/11 as the country reeled from the terrorist attacks and the anxiety about what might be coming next, then Sen. Joe Biden said America was too resilient to crumble even after the horror of seeing the World Trade Center towers crumble to dust.

In an interview with ABC News just hours after the attacks, Biden praised President Bush for returning to Washington and warned about not curbing civil liberties in the war America had been thrown into.

“I think we should be meeting tomorrow morning, let the American people understand that these thugs that have done this incredible thing to the United States have not, in any fundamental way, altered our ability to do business,” Biden said.

“We have to show that we’re up, we’re ready, we’re ready to move. We are, in fact -- nothing has fundamentally altered this government,” he said.  “And the tragedy that occurred to these thousands of people is one that we must, in fact, follow through and find out who is responsible for. But in the meantime … we should be calm and cool and collected about going about our business as a nation. Terrorism wins when, in fact, they alter our civil liberties or shut down our institutions. We have to demonstrate neither of those things have happened.”

Discussing how the attacks had transformed our county into a war-zone and his concern about the future and civil liberties Biden said, “We’ve come face to face with a new reality, a reality that we knew existed and knew was possible, a reality that has happened in varying degrees to other countries. But if, in fact, in order to respond to that reality we have to alter our civil liberties, change the way we function, then we’ve truly lost the war.”

Douglass, who earlier in the day had been rapidly evacuated from the Capitol, later saw Biden, who was then chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and led him to the top of a building at 400 North Capitol Street where ABC News had a camera position established in case the Capitol was attacked. Douglass and Biden climbed a ladder to the roof of the building where he was interviewed.

Biden said that government officials needed remain calm as they figured out how to respond to the tragedy and how to move forward. Biden also praised Bush for his determination to return to Washington.

“The first thing is what the president is doing. He called for calm. He’s getting in the airplane, he’s coming back to Washington, D.C., and I applaud him for that,” he said.

While acknowledging the devastation caused by the attacks, Biden said the nation’s resilience would come through.

“This nation is too big, too strong, too united, too much a power in terms of our cohesion and our values to let this break us apart,” he said. “And it won’t happen.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio