- The Washington Times - Friday, September 11, 2009

UPDATED:

President Obama on Friday, marking his first commemoration of the 9/11 attacks as commander-in-chief, called in a Pentagon ceremony for Americans to remember and regain the common purpose that galvanized the nation eight years ago.

“Eight Septembers have come and gone. Nearly 3,000 days have passed, almost one for each of those taken from us,” Mr. Obama said, speaking under a driving rain to a small crowd that included survivors of those killed at the Pentagon that day. “But no turning of the seasons can diminish the pain and the loss of that day.”

“On this solemn day, at this sacred hour, once more we pause, once more we pray,” he said.

The president honored the dead, saying they were “innocent, harming no one.”

The attack on the Pentagon, when al Qaeda hijackers flew American Airlines Flight 77 into the military’s nerve center, killed 125 people in the building and 59 on the plane. The two planes that flew into the World Trade Center’s north and south towers, collapsing both, killed 2,751. And another 40 people on board United Airlines Flight 93 died when they realized their plane had been hijacked and they fought to bring the plane down in a field in Shanksville, Pa.

“Gone in a terrible instant, they now dwell in the house of the Lord forever,” Mr. Obama said.

The president also talked of renewal.

“Let us renew our resolve against those who perpetrated this barbaric act. … Let us renew our commitment to all those who serve in our defense. … Let us renew our common purpose.”

“Let us remember how we came together as one nation, as one people, as Americans,” he said.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also spoke.

“Because of the sacrifice of thousands more since that day, we remain a strong and free nation,” said Mr. Gates, referring to the 5,157 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan in the still-ongoing wars launched by President George W. Bush in the aftermath of the attacks.

Adm. Mullen said that the military remains ready to fight and “absolutely unafraid of the menace of these years.”

The ceremonies began in New York City at 8:30 a.m. under similar gray conditions at Zuccotti Park, near the World Trade Center where two high-jacked planes struck the Twin Towers.

They began when a U.S. flag that flew over Ground Zero was brought to the stage and Mayor Michael Bloomberg asked the crowd for a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m., the exact time American Airlines Flight 11 hit the North Tower.

Jay Winuk, whose younger brother Glenn Winuk, a lawyer and volunteer firefighter who died in the rescue efforts, was among the first surviving family members to address the crowd.

My little brother is my greatest hero, not just for the way he died but for the way he lived, he said.

The ceremony including reading the victims’ names, and the first was that of investment banker Gordon M. Aamoth Jr.

The crowd returned to a moment of silence at 9:05 a.m., the time United flight 175 hit the South Tower.

Vice President Joe Biden then addressed the crowd, quoting poet Mary Oliver in saying, Meanwhile, the world goes on.

The names will continued to be read until about noon, when surviving family members will go to Ground Zero.

The ceremonies remembering those killed on high-jacked United flight 93 that crashed to the ground in Shankesville, Pa., began at about 10 a.m.

Bells tolled for the 40 victims, who were flying from Newark, N.J., to San Francisco. Investigators think the passengers and crew overwhelmed the highjackers and stopped their plan to crash the plane into the White House or the Capitol.

Among those who participated in the event in western Pennsylvania was former Former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

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