President Barack Obama set aside his Syrian agenda to lead the nation in observing the 12th anniversary of Sept. 11, honoring those who perished in the worst terror attack in U.S. history.
“Together we pause and we pray,” Obama said today at a ceremony at the Pentagon just outside Washington. “We pray for the memory of all those taken from us. Our hearts still ache for the futures snatched away.”
Almost 3,000 people were killed when al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four commercial airliners and crashed them into the World Trade Center towers in New York City, the Pentagon and a field in rural Pennsylvania. At the Pentagon, headquarters for the U.S. military, 59 passengers and crew and 125 people on the ground died.
Obama, joined by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, laid a wreath to honor Pentagon victims, their families and first responders.
He said the nation reaffirms the “values and virtues” of those who perished and that the nation will remain resilient in their honor.
“There’s no trouble we can’t endure and no calamity that we can’t overcome,” Obama said. Americans will “carry on, no matter how dark the night nor how difficult the days.”
Moment of Silence
Earlier, the president, joined by first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, along with White House aides, gathered on the South Lawn of the White House, where flags were at half-staff.
They stood silent at 8:46 a.m., the time on Sept. 11, 2001, when American Airlines Flight 11 smashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. Taps were played at the end of the moment of silence.
Memorial services were also conducted by lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
“On September 11, 2001, no matter where we came from, what God we prayed to, or what race or ethnicity we were, we were united as one American family,” Obama said in a proclamation issued yesterday. “May the same be said of us today, and always.”
The proclamation declared today as Patriot Day and a National Day of Service. U.S. flags were to be lowered to half-staff, and the president called on the nation to observe a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. and mark the day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.
After attending remembrances, Obama took part in a public service event, helping pack fresh fruit, muffins and other breakfast items at a food distribution center in Washington for people with cancer, HIV/AIDS or other afflictions. The group Food & Friends delivers about 1 million meals to 3,000 people in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, spokesman Christopher Copley said.
The Obama administration said in a statement that it’s taken several steps to prevent another Sept. 11-style attack in the U.S., citing a review of security procedures over the past several months led by Lisa Monaco, the president’s assistant for homeland security.
The steps weren’t identified, though the review included global threats, including those from the Arabian Peninsula that led to the closing of 19 U.S. diplomatic posts last month.
Press secretary Jay Carney also recalled the deadly attack at the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, a year ago today where four Americans were killed, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.
Investigations into the attack have become a partisan issue. The administration is “committed to bringing the perpetrators of the Benghazi attacks to justice and to ensuring the safety” of U.S. personnel worldwide, Carney said.