President Donald Trump led a national moment of silence on the 16th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Monday, the first commemoration for a New York native who has described the destruction of the Twin Towers as a defining event in his political life.
At the White House, Trump and Melania Trump, the first lady, marked the moment, 8:46 a.m., when the first airliner struck one of the towers, leading to a catastrophic collapse that killed nearly 3,000 people, 343 of them New York City firefighters.
RELATED: Area ceremonies recall Sept. 11, 2001, attacks
The first couple walked out of the White House at 8:45 a.m. A minute later, a bell tolled as they stood near a group of White House staffers and invited guests who bowed their heads as a Marine trumpeter played taps. The president and first lady placed their hands over their hearts and walked silently back into the residence at 8:48 a.m.
A short time later, during a ceremony at the Pentagon, Donald Trump said, “Though we can never erase your pain or bring back those you lost, we can honor their sacrifice by pledging our resolve to do whatever we must to keep our people safe.” He was joined by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“On that day not only did the world change, but we all changed,” Trump said. “Our eyes were opened to the depths of the evil we faced, but in that hour of darkness we also came together with renewed purpose. Our differences never looked so small, our common bonds never felt so strong.”
Trump said the country was committed to “destroying the enemies of all civilized people.”
He added: “We are making plain to these savage killers that there is no dark corner beyond our reach, no sanctuary beyond our grasp, and nowhere to hide anywhere on this very large earth.”
The moment of silence was also observed at the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon and a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where one of four planes hijacked by Islamic militants crashed out of a nearly cloudless early-autumn sky.
It came on a day when emergency medical workers were engaged in rescue and recovery efforts in Florida and the Gulf Coast in Texas to deal with aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, two huge storms that have stretched the resources of federal emergency management officials also responsible for protecting the nation from terrorist attacks.
Trump offered prayers to those affected by the storms.
“These are storms of catastrophic severity, and we’re marshaling the full resources of the federal government to help our fellow Americans in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee, and all of those wonderful places and states in harm’s way,” Trump told the crowd gathered in front of the r section of the Pentagon, now rebuilt, that was destroyed by the hijackers in 2001. “When Americans are in need, Americans pull together — and we are one country. And when we face hardship, we emerge closer, stronger and more determined than ever. We’re gathered here today to remember a morning that started very much like this one.”
Vice President Mike Pence represented the administration at an observance at the Sept. 11 memorial in Shanksville.
The president, who was running his family’s real estate empire in 2001, at first praised President George W. Bush’s response to the attacks, initially supporting the invasion of Iraq, before turning sharply against the war and Bush.
He has often criticized other politicians for failing to grasp the threat posed to the homeland by jihadis but has often repeated the false, unsubstantiated claim that Muslims in New Jersey danced in celebration as the towers tumbled.
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