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Panetta: Nobody Attacks US ‘and Gets Away With It’

  • Luis Ramirez

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta during the National Anthem at the start of an event at the Pentagon, Friday, Sept. 9, 2011.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta during the National Anthem at the start of an event at the Pentagon, Friday, Sept. 9, 2011.

The existence of what U.S. officials say is a credible but unconfirmed terrorist threat is not changing President Obama’s plans to visit the Pentagon on the 9/11 anniversary. Commemoration events began at the Pentagon on Friday - under heightened security.

Under a drizzling rain, a large number of Pentagon employees gathered in the military headquarters’ courtyard to remember the day when hijackers slammed an American Airlines Boeing 757 into a side of the building.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was among those attending a commemoration ceremony for employees and other innocent victims who perished when the airplane crashed into and destroyed part of the huge structure.

“Though the gaping hole in this building has long been repaired, there remains a gaping hole in our hearts," he said. "We still feel deeply the loss of 184 people who perished here that morning.”

He said the attacks at the Pentagon and in New York’s World Trade Center caused the country to unite and strengthened the military’s resolve to hunt down terrorists like Osama bin Ladin.

“One of my proudest moments was as CIA director, being able to work on the operation [with] some of our finest intelligence officers working with some of our special forces teams to be able to make a very clear point - to our country and to the world - that nobody attacks this country and gets away with it,” he said.

Panetta spoke as authorities here and in New York tightened security following reports of what officials say is a credible but not yet confirmed threat of a terrorist plot to strike during September 11th commemorations. Officials say they are trying to corroborate information they received that one or more attackers might have entered the United States in the past few days to carry out attacks.

The Pentagon earlier in the week announced it heightened security at military installations in the continental United States ahead of the 9/11 anniversary before gaining knowledge of a credible threat.

Marcia Zisman is an Army employee who was working in the Pentagon when it was attacked 10 years ago. Zisman, who is deaf, spoke through an interpreter, calling it the worst day of her life - one she hopes will never be repeated.

“I feel healed, but with scars, many scars that will never go away,” she said.

Zisman on Friday was among the first employees to line up in the Pentagon courtyard to sew a stitch onto a U.S. flag that was destroyed in the aftermath of the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center.