(CNN) - Vice President Joe Biden provided a reminder of sacrifices made on September 11, 2001, during an exclusive interview in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, with CNN Chief National Correspondent John King.
He discussed the gravity of the memorial in Shanksville, which commemorates those who lost their lives when they rebelled against hijackers and took over an airplane bound for the nation’s capital. The memorial also serves as a burial ground for those on board the plane.
“These weren’t soldiers, these weren’t military people, these were Americans who knew they were doing something bigger than just trying to get rid of a bunch of hijackers,” Biden said in the interview set to air Monday on “John King, USA.” “They knew they were saving people’s lives, and they gave their own.”
He recalled his own experience learning of the terrorist attacks during his regular commute to the capital from Delaware.
“I got on the train. …I took the early train. My wife was leaving to school, to teach school. She called me on my cell just around Aberdeen, Maryland, which is before Baltimore, and said, ‘Joe, my God, I'm - my God, Joe - a plane just flew right into the World Trade Tower. What do you think that means?’”
The vice president responded that he didn’t know what to make of the news and they ended the call, he said. But Biden’s wife, Jill, called back shortly thereafter with news of the second plane hitting the World Trade Center, and the then-senator knew there was no coincidence.
“I said, ‘Honey, this is a big problem. Man, this sounds coordinated,’” Biden recounted.
He said he continued toward the Capitol building and found people leaving but felt the need keep going. The Capitol police interrupted his progress.
“I literally get off the train just as the Pentagon got hit, and I’m walking in and I find everybody was out of the Capitol. I say ‘we should go back in.’ I get up on the Capitol steps and the Capitol police say, ‘incoming plane, incoming, you’ve got to get out of here senator, you’ve got to get out of here.’”
Although, in the words of the vice president, “no one knows for sure” whether the next intended target was the U.S. Capitol Building or the White House, Biden was certain of the impact an attack on the nation’s legislature would have had if passengers had not successfully brought down the plane in Shanksville.
“They would’ve taken down the symbol of what constitutes the heart and soul of the government,” he said.