President Barack Obama led the nation in a moment of silence today to observe the 11th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil, and he promised the families of the almost 3,000 people killed that their loved ones will never be forgotten.
Obama, joined by first lady Michelle Obama on the South Lawn of the White House, marked the time on Sept. 11, 2001, that American Airlines Flight 11 smashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.
They took part in a similar service later at the Pentagon, which was hit by another hijacked airliner, killing the 59 passengers and crew and 125 people on the ground.
“As painful as this day is and always will be, it leaves us with a lesson that no single event can ever destroy who we are, no act of terrorism can ever change what we stand for,” Obama said at the Pentagon.
Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also paid tribute to the military, the resilience of the U.S. public and the nation’s unity in response to the attack.
Eleven years ago, terrorists attacked “our economy, our commerce, our military might and our democracy,” Panetta said at the Pentagon ceremony. In attacking U.S. strengths, the terrorists “unleashed our greatest strength: the spirit and the will of Americans to fight for their country,” Panetta said.
Obama directed part of his remarks to the families of Sept. 11 victims.
“No matter how many years pass,” Obama said, “no matter how many times we come together on this hallowed ground, know this: that you will never be alone. Your loved ones will never be forgotten.”
Later, the president stopped at a section of Arlington National Cemetery reserved for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, before heading to visit wounded members of the armed services at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in nearby Bethesda, Maryland. Ohama visited with 36 combat veterans who suffered injuries and awarded two Purple Hearts.
Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate for president, addressed a conference of the National Guard Association of the United States in Reno, Nevada, where he said the world remains dangerous and full of unpredictable threats.
“On Sept. 10, 2001, we had no idea that America would be at war in Afghanistan,” Romney said. “In December of 2010, we had no idea that a Tunisian street vendor would inspire a revolution that would topple three dictators. We live in a time of turbulence and disruption.”
Early in his remarks, Romney said that in recognition of the Sept. 11 anniversary he wouldn’t focus on differences between his plans and Obama’s on defense and foreign policy.
Vice President Joseph Biden, joined by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, traveled to Somerset County, Pennsylvania, for ceremonies at the Flight 93 National Memorial to honor the passengers and crew who died when their hijacked United Airlines plane slammed into the ground outside Shanksville.
Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton, the chairmen of the commission convened to investigate how the U.S. failed to detect plotting for the Sept. 11 attacks, said the terrorism threat persists. They called for the government move ahead on some of the panel’s recommendations that still aren’t fully implemented, including a national broadband network for emergency personnel.
“We owe it to the American people to keep our attention riveted on ensuring we are taking every step to keep the country secure,” the two men said in a statement.