From Tahman Bradley:
On this tense ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, President Obama said the best way to honor those who were killed is for America to stay true to its values.
"The highest honor we can pay those we lost, indeed our greatest weapon in this ongoing war, is to do what our adversaries fear the most -– to stay true to who we are, as Americans," said the president.
President Obama made his remarks this morning at the Pentagon and it was clear that the American public’s growing suspicions of Muslims was on his mind. With this year’s anniversary coming amid tensions about a proposed Islamic community center and mosque near Ground Zero and a Florida pastor calling for a Koran burning ceremony, the president sought to ease nerves by reminding the public that enemies of the United States like those who hijacked planes and attacked the country on 9/11 seek to divide and conquer.
"Those who attacked us sought to demoralize us, divide us, to deprive us of the very unity, the very ideals, that make America America … today we declare once more we will never hand them that victory," Obama said.
The president also tried to ease any international concern that the emotional Ground Zero mosque debate and the Koran burning controversy may have caused by declaring: "We are not — and never will be — at war with Islam."
The president further asserted that the United States will not give into Muslim extremists who seek to use conflict between different faiths as a weapon.
"They may seek to exploit our freedoms, but we will not sacrifice the liberties we cherish or hunker down behind walls of suspicion and mistrust," he said. "They may wish to drive us apart, but we will not give in to their hatred and prejudice."
The president told the families of the victims that the country has not forgotten about their loved ones, even though nine years have passed.
"You have shed more tears than we will ever know," he said. "And though it must seem some days as though the world has moved on to other things, I say to you today that your loved ones endure in the heart of our nation, now and forever."
Before his remarks, the president layed a wreath at the site of the attack at the Pentagon. He plans to take part in a local area service event later in the day.
Elsewhere, first lady Michelle Obama was joined by former first lady Laura Bush at a remembrance for those who died on United Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Vice President Joe Biden and his wife attended the Ground Zero memorial service in New York.
– Tahman Bradley