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The dedication of a 9/11 memorial in a grassy field near Shanksville, Pa., Saturday gave former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton a chance to appeal for unity.

Neither “specifically mentioned the fractured state of relations in Washington,” observed Katherine Q. Seelye in the New York Times. “But their sharing of a stage and their comments here in a field where Flight 93 slammed into the ground stood in sharp contrast to the current discord.”

It was there that 40 passengers and crew members died on hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001, when they learned other hijacked passenger jets had slammed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The passengers attempted to take back their jet — which crashed into a rural pasture instead of its hijackers’ target, apparently the U.S. Capitol Building, noted Seelye:

“We have a duty to find common purpose as a nation,” said Mr. Bush, who was president during the terrorist attacks of 9/11. In a warning that seemed aimed at his fellow Republicans, including presidential candidates, some of whom are calling for the United States to limit its footprint overseas, he warned that “the temptation of isolation is deadly wrong.”

Mr. Clinton thanked Mr. Bush — and President Obama — “for keeping us from being attacked again,” and the audience, previously somber and silent, applauded.

He also drew applause when he announced that he and the Republican House speaker, John A. Boehner, who was in the audience, had agreed to host a bipartisan fund-raising event in Washington to help raise the $10 million needed to complete the memorial here.

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