PRESIDENT Barack Obama says the legacy of 9/11 is a safer world and an America stronger and more united than before as he marks the 11th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
Obama held a sombre moment of silence at the White House, then travelled to the Pentagon which was hit by one of four hijacked jetliners in a strike that dragged the United States into a decade of war.
“As painful as this day is – and always will be – it leaves us with a lesson, that no single event can ever destroy who we are, no act of terrorism can ever change what we stand for,” Obama said at the US military headquarters.
“Instead we recommit ourselves to the values that we believe in,” Obama said, adding that because of the sacrifice on September 11, 2001, Americans had come together and “dealt a crippling blow to the organisation that brought evil to our shores.”
“Al-Qaeda’s leadership has been devastated, and Osama bin Laden will never threaten us again. Our country is safer, and our people are resilient.”
“That’s why, when the history books are written, the true legacy of 9/11 will not be one of fear or hate or division. It will be a safer world, a stronger nation, and a people more united than ever before.”
Obama also recalled the horror of 11 years ago when an era of American peace and prosperity gave way to a new age which saw wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, a global hunt for terrorists and curbs on US freedoms at home.
“Even now, all these years later, it is easy for those of us who lived through that day to close our eyes and to find ourselves back there and back here,” Obama said.
The president recalled the moment when “grief crashed over us like an awful wave, when Americans everywhere held each other tight, seeking the reassurance that the world we knew wasn’t crumbling under our feet.”
Earlier, Obama and wife Michelle walked out on to the South Lawn as a bell tolled, then bowed their heads and stood for a moment’s silence at 8:46 am, the moment the first jet hit the World Trade Centre in New York.
Then, they stood as a lone Marine bugler played “taps” – a lament played at military funerals.
The Obamas both raised their heads and put their hands over their hearts as the bugler’s notes drifted on the morning air, after the sound of a jet taking off from nearby Ronald Reagan National Airport offered an ironic reminder of the morning of terror 11 years ago.
Obama had no planned political events planned on Tuesday, but was due to head to visit wounded American soldiers at Walter Reed military hospital.
He halted all political television advertising for the day, a re-election campaign official said, and there was no White House daily briefing planned.
His program contrasted with the overt pause in the presidential campaign of four years ago, when both Obama and his then Republican rival John McCain joined to lay a wreath at Ground Zero in New York.