Wednesday 20 November 2019

Obama praises 'safer' and 'resilient' America on subdued day of memorial

U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama observe a moment of silence on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks
U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama observe a moment of silence on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks

Raf Sanchez in Washington

President Barack Obama yesterday said that the US is safer and its people more resilient on the 11th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Mr Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama laid a wreath at the Pentagon, one of several official observances marking the suicide hijackings that killed nearly 3,000 people on September 11, 2001.

Aided by a Marine guard of honour, Mr Obama placed a white floral wreath on a metal stand above a concrete slab that said "Sept 11, 2001 -- 9:37 am". A moment of silence began at precisely 9:37 am.

In remarks at the Pentagon, Mr Obama recalled a day "when grief crashed over us like an awful wave".

Later he went to visit wounded soldiers and their families at a US army medical centre.

But for the most part politicians were absent from the September 11 anniversary ceremony at the World Trade Centre for the first time as families of the victims were left alone to read the names of the 2,977 who died.

Victim

Under a clear blue sky, the readers worked through the list of names from Gordon Aamoth, a 32-year-old investment banker, to Igor Zukelman, a 29-year-old computer scientist, in a quiet ceremony in lower Manhattan.

"I love the subdued atmosphere -- it's very personal," Angela Pesce told the 'New York Times' as she remembered her son Danny, a victim of the attacks. "It's the way it should have been since day one."

The decision to exclude politicians' speeches was made by Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor of New York and chairman of the foundation in charge of the Ground Zero memorial.

He also announced that an agreement had been reached with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, allowing work to resume on the long-delayed September 11 museum.

The museum was supposed to be ready this year but disagreements have caused severe delays and it is now expected to open in autumn 2013 at the earliest.

Mr Bloomberg said the deal meant construction would be "restarted very soon and will not stop until the museum is completed".

The anniversary marked a brief truce in the US presidential election campaign as the campaigns of both Mr Obama and the Republican candidate Mitt Romney withdrew their negative advertisements from television for the day out of respect.

Earlier, President Obama held a moment of silence at the White House before heading to the Pentagon, where 184 people were killed when American Airlines Flight 77 struck the headquarters of America's military.

Mr Obama paid tribute to the "9/11 generation" of soldiers who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan and said they had delivered a "crippling blow" to al-Qa'ida.

"Al-Qa'ida's leadership has been devastated and Osama bin Laden will never threaten us again," he said. "Our country is safer and our people are resilient."

Emotion

He added: "And even though we may never be able to fully lift the burden carried by those left behind, we know that somewhere a son is growing up with his father's eyes, and a daughter has her mother's laugh -- living reminders that those who died are with us still."

While Mr Obama tried to project quietly determined leadership, Joe Biden, his vice-president, offered rawer emotion as he quoted WB Yeats and told families.

"My prayer for you is that with every succeeding year you're able to sing more than you weep," he read.

Mitt Romney visited with firefighters in Chicago and was last night due to address a gathering of 4,000 National Guard officers in Reno, Nevada. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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