It's the one day each year when politicians and ordinary Americans set aside their differences.
One World Trade Center rises above the lower Manhattan skyline and the National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum. (Photo: AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
Today, the nation marks the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that killed close to 3,000 people in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.
It will forever be remembered as the day that changed the world. Some will relive the unimaginable grief they felt after losing loved ones to the tragedy, while others will attend memorial events or participate in service activities. But no matter how it’s spent, the events of that fateful day will forever be etched in the minds of most Americans for decades to come.
President Obama and the White House staff Tuesday observed a moment of silence in honor of those who died. Over the weekend Obama had proclaimed Tuesday as a National Day of Service and Remembrance, used his weekly address to honor those who lost their lives and the first responders who fought valiantly to save them.
“On that clear September morning, as America watched the towers fall, and the Pentagon burn and the wreckage smoldering in a Pennsylvania field, we were filled with questions,” he said. “Where had the attacks come from, and how would America respond? Would they fundamentally weaken the country we love? Would they change who we are?”
The president said that together Americans have answered those questions, which has brought out the best in people and made the nation stronger.
“Instead of turning on each other, we’ve resisted the temptation to give in to mistrust and suspicion. I have always said that America is at war with al Qaeda and its affiliates and we will never be at war with Islam or any other religion. We are the United States of America. Our freedom and diversity make us unique, and they will always be central to who we are as a nation,” he said.
Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney have agreed to suspend advertising for the day. In addition, politicians have been banned from participating in the anniversary ceremony at ground zero, although they are welcome to attend.
In 2001, 19 members of the al-Qaeda terrorist group hijacked four U.S. commercial jets, all of which were carrying passengers. Two were deliberately flown into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and a third targeted the Pentagon. The fourth plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania after the crew and passengers fought to take control of the aircraft.
These terrorist acts represent the single largest loss of life from a foreign attack on American soil, and led to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In May 2011, under President Obama’s orders, a group of Navy Seals successfully killed al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind behind the attacks, who had eluded capture for almost a decade, in his hideout in Pakistan.
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