‘Smoking’ 9/11 float display draws criticism, GOP leaders apologize

A parade float featuring "smoking" replicas of the World Trade Center has local GOP officials in Indiana apologizing for sponsoring it. 

The float was featured in a parade on Sept. 11 as part of the Popcorn Festival in Valparaiso, located about 40 miles southeast of Chicago. 

According to the Republican officials who sponsored it, the float was meant to pay homage to the lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001, as well as the 13 service members killed in the August suicide bomb attack in Afghanistan. 

Porter County Republican Party Chairman Michael Simpson said he regrets sponsoring the float on the party’s Facebook page.

RELATED: From ground zero to Pentagon to Shanksville, US marks 20th anniversary of 9/11

"We wished no disrespect and regret that our tribute to the lives lost and those who continue to serve was to some perceived in bad taste," Simpson posted. 

The world solemnly marked the 20th anniversary of 9/11 on Saturday, grieving lost lives in commemorations that unfolded just weeks after the end of the Afghanistan war that was launched in response to the terror attacks.

Victims’ relatives and four U.S. presidents paid respects at the sites where hijacked planes killed nearly 3,000 people in the deadliest act of terrorism on American soil.

Others gathered for observances from Portland, Maine, to Guam, or for volunteer projects on what has become a day of service in the U.S. Foreign leaders expressed sympathy over an attack that happened in the U.S. but claimed victims from more than 90 countries.

RELATED: 20 years later: A timeline of the events of September 11, 2001

In a video released Friday night, Biden said Sept. 11 illustrated that "unity is our greatest strength."

Unity is "the thing that’s going to affect our well-being more than anything else," he added while visiting a volunteer firehouse Saturday after laying a wreath at the 9/11 crash site near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. He later took a moment of silence at the third site, the Pentagon.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.