Dueling protests are taking place in lower Manhattan near the site of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center this afternoon after today's solemn ceremony honoring the victims of the attacks, which took place nine years ago today.
Protesters who oppose the building of an Islamic center near the former World Trade Center site have gathered a few blocks from Ground Zero, can be heard chanting "USA! USA!," and are holding signs reading "Never forgive, never forget, no WTC mosque," according to the Associated Press.
Just a few blocks away a group of about 1000 people gathered by City Hall and marched towards Ground Zero in support of the building of the Islamic center. Leah Christiani was in that crowd.
"It's so unfortunate that we had to be here to counter-protest what's going on -- but at the same time I think if we weren't here pushing back, it would be even worse, because it would be allowing this wave of hatred to just take over the country," Christiani said.
"In this country, we have freedom of religion, so if a group purchases an area…they should be able to build whatever they want there!"
Earlier today in a speech at the Pentagon, President Obama followed a week of highly charged political discourse with a reminder that America is not at war with Islam and a call for national unity.
"As Americans, we will not and never will be at war with Islam," Obama said at the memorial service. "It was not a religion that attacked us that September day. It was al-Qaeda, a sorry band of men which perverts religion."
"Those who attacked us sought to demoralize us, to divide us, to deprive us of the very unity, the very ideals that make America America," he added. "Today we declare once more we will never hand them that victory..For our cause is just, our spirit is strong, our resolve is unwavering."
Earlier this morning on his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama urged Americans to look towards common interests and unity.
"We are one nation — one people — bound not only by grief, but by a set of common ideals," Obama said.
"This is a time of difficulty for our country. And it is often in such moments that some try to stoke bitterness — to divide us based on our differences, to blind us to what we have in common. But on this day, we are reminded that at our best, we do not give in to this temptation," Obama said.
"We will never forget the images of planes vanishing into buildings; of photos hung by the families of the missing. And while nine years have come and gone since that September morning, the passage of time will never diminish the pain and loss forever seared in the consciousness of our nation," Obama said.
Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden joined New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and hundreds of mourners who lost friends and family in the attacks at Ground Zero in lower Manhattan.
First lady Michelle Obama was joined by former first lady Laura Bush in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where Flight 93 crashed.
Former President George W. Bush reflected on those Americans who were called to action on that morning, and have worked tirelessly since.
"We recall the many acts of heroism on that day, and we honor those who work tirelessly to prevent another attack," said Bush in a statement released this morning. "May God bless our great country and those who defend her."