At 8:46 a.m. — the time when the first plane slammed into 1 World Trade Center — 87,648 hours will have gone by. Another 5,258,880 minutes. Another 315,532,800 seconds.
The ceremony at ground zero brought together the officials who were in office 10 years ago — Mr. Bush, Gov. George E. Pataki of New York, Gov. Donald T. DiFrancesco of New Jersey and Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani — with their successors: Mr. Obama, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Mr. Bloomberg.
President Barack Obama paid tribute to America’s resilience and the sacrifice of its war dead Saturday as the country prepared to mark 10 long years since the horrors of 9/11.
Obama will honor victims at each of the sites where nearly 3,000 people were killed in the 2001 attacks – first at ground zero in lower Manhattan, then in Shanksville, Pa. and at the Pentagon. Yet his only address to the nation will come at night, lasting about 15 minutes during an event at the Kennedy Center in Washington.
The message to expect from the president: America’s character is stronger than the blow inflicted by al-Qaida or any other threat to the country, Obama deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said Friday in an interview with The Associated Press.
The president also will put an emphasis on how lives have changed for the families affected by 9/11 and for the troops who have served since that day. It has been a period in which more than 6,000 service members have died and 45,000 have been wounded in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
“This is something that had an extraordinary toll on individual Americans, and that’s what can’t be lost amid the broader debates this country has had,” said Rhodes, who handles strategic communications for the National Security Council and has been involved in shaping Obama’s Sunday remarks.
“You’ve had families who have had to rebuild their lives. You’ve had troops that have had to serve. That’s very much where his focus is going to be.”
A day before the anniversary commemorations, the president made a pilgrimage to Arlington National Cemetery, strolling with his wife, Michelle, among graves filled with dead from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
And he invoked the common purpose that arose from carnage a decade ago in telling Americans that the nation cannot be broken by terrorism “no matter what comes our way.”
Obama also visited a soup kitchen, where he and his family helped prepare trays of gumbo for the needy in the nation’s capital, underscoring the call to national service that rang so loudly after the terrorist attacks.
At D.C. Central Kitchen, Obama said projects to serve the community “are part of what the spirit of remembering 9/11’s all about — the country being unified and looking out for one another.”
In an email to supporters, the president urged others to follow his lead. “With just a small act of service, or a simple act of kindness towards others, you can both honor those we lost and those who serve us still, and help us recapture the spirit of generosity and compassion that followed 9/11,” the president wrote.
“A decade after 9/11, it’s clear for all the world to see — the terrorists who attacked us that September morning are no match for the character of our people, the resilience of our nation, or the endurance of our values,” the president said in his weekly radio and Internet address.
“They wanted to terrorize us, but, as Americans, we refuse to live in fear. Yes we face a determined foe, and make no mistake — they will keep trying to hit us again. But as we are showing again this weekend, we remain vigilant. We’re doing everything in our power to protect our people. And no matter what comes our way, as a resilient nation, we will carry on.”
In the weekly address, Obama sought a balance between remembering the attacks and the nearly 3,000 people who died, and moving forward.
He thanked troops who have served in the post-Sept. 11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and praised the military successes that led to advances against al-Qaida and the killing of the group’s leader, Osama bin Laden.
“They wanted to deprive us of the unity that defines us as a people, but we will not succumb to division or suspicion,” Obama said. “We are Americans, and we are stronger and safer when we stay true to the values, freedoms and diversity that make us unique among nations.”
Other ceremonies and services were planned. The New York City Fire Museum will honor the 343 firefighters who died with the dedication of the bunker coat and helmet that a Fire Department chaplain, Mychal Judge, was wearing on Sept. 11 when he died.
Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan will have a “trialogue,” a three-way discussion with Shamsi Ali, the imam of the Islamic Cultural Center of New York; Rabbi Michael S. Friedman, the associate rabbi of Central Synagogue in Manhattan; and Michael B. Brown, the church’s senior minister.
At night, an interfaith ceremony on the south side of Pier 40, a park at the west end of Houston Street, will be led by the Rev. Alfonso Wyatt, the vice president of the Fund for the City of New York. [via Huff Post and The New York Times]