President Barack Obama on Sunday said the United States has emerged stronger and more united from the dark days of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. The president spoke in Washington after attending 10th anniversary memorial events in New York City, Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon, honoring the nearly 3,000 people who died.
The president's remarks came at the end of a day of travel in which he and his wife Michelle visited the three attack sites, the World Trade Center Memorial in New York City, a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania and the Pentagon in Washington.
A day of remembrance and honoring the victims ended with a "Concert for Hope” at the Kennedy Center here in Washington, organized by the National Cathedral, with musical performances and remarks by Mr. Obama.
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After the attacks, the president said, Americans awoke to "a world in which evil was closer at hand, and uncertainty clouded our future." He spoke of the challenges the nation has endured since. “In the decade since, much has changed for Americans. We’ve known war and recession; passionate debates and political divides. We can never get back the lives we lost on that day, or the Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice in the wars that followed," he said.
Mr. Obama said important things had not changed, "America's character, American's refusal to give in to fear, and their fierce defense of their freedoms and way of life." “We hold fast to our freedoms. Yes, we are more vigilant against those who threaten us and there are inconveniences that come with our common defense. Debates, about war and peace; about security and civil liberties, have often been fierce these last 10 years. But it is precisely the rigor of these debates and our ability to resolve them in a way that honors our values and our democracy that is the measure of our strength," he said.
The president paid tribute to the two million Americans who have gone to war since 2001, saying they “demonstrated that those who do us harm cannot hide from the reach of justice anywhere in the world.” He also commended the nation's intelligence professionals and diplomats.
Mr. Obama called each of the sites examples of resilience. But he said the legacy of September 11, 2001 is more than monuments. “More than monuments, that will be the legacy of [September 11], a legacy of firefighters who walked into fire and soldiers who signed up to serve, of workers who raised new towers, and citizens who faced down their private fears, most of all of children who realized the dreams of their parents. It will be said of us that we kept that faith, that we took a painful blow and emerged stronger than before," he said.
The president said that despite the debates since the 2001 attacks, Americans had “not succumbed to suspicion and mistrust.” He said the United States reaffirms it “will never wage war against Islam or any religion” and that it continues to welcome immigrants.
Mr. Obama received a briefing on Sunday from counter-terrorism officials about security precautions being taken, this after officials warned last week of a credible, though unconfirmed terrorist threat against the United States. White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters they discussed “the nature of the threat that is still out there” but said there was no new specific information conveyed to Mr. Obama.