WASHINGTON--At the last of a long day of memorials Sunday marking the tenth anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, President Obama noted lives lost in New York, Washington, Pennsylvania, Iraq and Afghanistan: "May God bless the memory of those we lost, may God bless the United States of America."
During ceremonies on Saturday and Sunday, the bitter partisanship of recent months was shelved as former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden appeared at the sites where the four planes hijacked by terrorists met a horrific end.
The attacks, the worse in U.S. history, plunged the nation into two wars, forced massive new domestic security measures, threw a spotlight on Osama bin Laden's brand of radical Muslim fundamentalism and caused inconsolable grief to the families of the 2,819 people who died.
On Sunday the attention was on the families of the victim and survivors. No one on the planes lived. United Airlines Flight 175 and American Airlines Flight 11 were flown into the World Trade Center towers and the buildings collapsed a short time later. American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into a side of the Pentagon. The passengers on United Flight 93 are regarded as heros because they stormed the cockpit and crash landed the Washington bound plane.
Leaving the White House at 6:19 a.m.--returning at 9:15 p.m.--- Obama and First Lady Michelle traveled to "ground zero" in New York first, than Shanksville, then to the Pentagon for remembrances in the afternoon. Obama's last remarks on 9-11 were at a service organized by the Washington National Cathedral, moved to the Kennedy Center because the Aug. 23 earthquake damaged the structure.
The chimes of the Cathedral here rang out at the exact times the planes hit ten years ago: 8:46 a.m. and 9:02 a.m. in Manhattan; 9:37 a.m. at the Pentagon and 10:03 a.m. in southeastern Pennsylvania.
In New York, Obama was joined by Bush, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani; performers--Paul Simon sang "Sound of Silence," accompanying himself on guitar-- and from tearful family members of those who perished who told the crowd of their terrible loss.
Obama read from Psalm 46, selecting a passage "that talks of persevering through very difficult challenges and emerging from those challenges stronger," said principal press secretary Josh Earnest.
Bush -who was president on Sept. 11, 2001--read from a letter President Abraham Lincoln wrote to a Civil War widow.
Obama laid at wreath at the Flight 93 National Memorial and did not speak. At the Saturday dedication of the site marking where 40 passengers and crew died, Clinton announced that he would co-host a fund-raiser with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in order to raise funds to finish the project.
At the Cathedral memorial, Obama said that decades from now people will realize that the U.S. endured despite the attacks. "And they will know that nothing can break the will of a truly United States of America," Obama said, emphasizing the word united. "They will remember that we've overcome slavery and Civil War; we've overcome bread lines and fascism and recession and riots and Communism and, yes, terrorism."
The Pentagon-the only military target of the hijackers-- marked the day with two observances at the 9-11 Memorial on the west side of the structure dedicated in 2008. In the morning, wreathes were laid on each of the 184 backless benches--one for each victim.
Biden, in the morning Pentagon event talked about a "9-11 Generation" spawned ten years ago.
"Those in this building that day knew what they were witnesses.It was a declaration of war by stateless actors -- bent on changing our way of life -- who believed that these horrible acts of terror --these horrible acts of terror directed against innocents could buckle our knees, could bend our will, could being to break us and break our resolve.
"But they did not know us. Instead, that same American instinct that sent all of you into the breach between the 4th and 5th corridors," Biden said, referring to the rings of the Pentagon building, "galvanized an entire new generation of patriots --- the 9/11 Generation