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President Trump Honors Victims On Anniversary Of Sept. 11, 2001 Attacks


At the White House this morning, the president and first lady observed a moment of silence in memory of those who died 16 years ago in the September 11 terrorist attacks. President Trump recalled the spirit of national unity that followed the attacks, and he suggested that similar solidarity is needed today. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.


SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Dozens of White House staffers gathered under blue skies on the South Lawn this morning to mark the precise moment - 8:46 a.m. - that the first of two hijacked airliners struck the World Trade Center. Later the president joined a memorial service at the Pentagon where a third hijacked plane crashed 16 years ago. Trump says the entire country grieves with those who lost loved ones on that day.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: 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.

HORSLEY: Vice President Pence was in Shanksville, Pa., where a fourth plane went down on 9/11 well short of its target, thought to be the U.S. Capitol. Pence, who was a congressman at the time, was working in the Capitol that morning.


VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: I will always believe that I and many others in our nation's Capitol were able to go home that day to hug our families because of the courage and selflessness of the heroes of Flight 93.

HORSLEY: For me, Pence said, it's personal. And as a New Yorker, 9/11 carries personal weight for Trump as well. Soon after the attack, he spoke to German television about visiting ground zero.


TRUMP: It is a terrible scene. It's a terrible sight. But New Yorkers are very strong and resilient, and they'll rebuild quickly.

HORSLEY: During the presidential campaign, Trump deftly used that resilience to counter an attack from Ted Cruz when the Texas senator criticized what he called New York values. Trump also falsely claimed during the campaign that he witnessed a large Muslim celebration after the attack.

Today the president struck a conciliatory tone. He spoke of people from all faiths, races and backgrounds who joined the military since 9/11 and how Americans seemed to set aside their differences after the attacks. Sixteen years later, those differences are back in spades. But the polarizing president aimed for his own moment of national unity.


TRUMP: When Americans are in need, Americans pull together. And we are one country.

HORSLEY: Whether it's terrorism on 9/11 or tropical storms today, the president says hardship makes Americans closer and more determined than ever. Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.