NEW YORK — US President Barack Obama said he remembered September 11, 2001 as a day when a tried and tested United States "came together" in the face of disaster.

"For me, like for most of us, our first reaction was and continues to be just heartbreak for the families involved," Obama told NBC television in an interview broadcast Sunday in which he recalled his reaction to learning of the attacks.

"The other thing that we all remember is how America came together," he said in the interview taped on Saturday, hours ahead of Sunday's memorial services at Ground Zero.

"And so 10 years later, I'd say America came through this thing in a way that was consistent with our character," the president said.

"We made mistakes. Some things haven't happened as quickly as they needed to, but overall we took the fight to Al-Qaeda," he added.

"We preserved our values. We preserved our character," he said in the interview at the White House.

On Sunday the president was in New York City, accompanied by First Lady Michelle Obama, for ceremonies marking the 10th anniversary of the Al-Qaeda attacks on the United States.

Also at those observances was former president George W. Bush, who was in office at the time of the attacks, and former first lady Laura Bush.