President Obama on Tuesday led the nation in paying tribute to the thousands of people who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001, noting that the “true legacy” of the attacks that day is “a safer world, a stronger nation and a people more united than ever before.”
“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,” Mr. Obama said during a morning ceremony Tuesday at the Pentagon, one of the terrorists’ main targets 11 years ago. “No act of terrorism can ever change what we stand for.”
Because of the resilience of the American people, the attack has not consumed the nation with “fear or hatred or division,” Mr. Obama.
“This anniversary allows us to renew our faith — that even the darkest night gives way to a brighter dawn,” he continued.
Before leaving the Pentagon, Mr. Obama and first lady Michelle Obama made an unscheduled stop at Arlington National Cemetery, where the president visited the graves in Section 60, where the most recent U.S. war dead killed in Afghanistan and Iraq are buried. The president and first lady walked among the spartan white grave stones, placing presidential “challenge coins” — medallions handed out by commanders to honor achievement — on several graves.
Earlier, Mr. and Mrs. Obama observed a moment of silence on the South Lawn in memory of the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The president spent time with wounded soldiers at the Walter Reed Military Medical Center in Bethesda, in the afternoon.
Vice President Joseph R. Biden spoke at a ceremony at Memorial Plaza outside Shanksville, Pa., the site where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into a field after terrorists hijacked the plane and passengers attempted to regain control.
Mr. Biden told the families about their loved ones’ sacrifice, “What they did for the country is still etched in the minds of not only you, but millions of Americans.”
Flight 93 was traveling from Newark, N.J., to San Francisco when terrorists hijacked it. The 9/11 Commission said the terrorists likely wanted to crash the plane somewhere in Washington, D.C. — hitting either the White House or the U.S. Capitol — until passengers fought back and the plane went down in a western Pennsylvania field, killing everyone onboard.
Across the country, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney spoke about the significance of the Sept. 11 anniversary in an address to the National Guard Association in Reno, Nev.
“We remember with heavy hearts the tragic loss of life, and we express thankfulness for the men and women who responded to that tragedy,” he said. “We honor them, and we honor those who secure our safety even to this day.”
Normally, he said, before an audience like the National Guard, he would highlight the differences between his military plans and those of Mr. Obama. But, he said, “There is a time and a place for that, but this day is not it.”
The campaigns of both Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama suspended the airing of campaign ads Tuesday.