WASHINGTON — US President Barack Obama urged Americans to honor first responders and men and women in uniform who keep the country safe as he marked the eleventh anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
“It’s a chance to honor the courage of the first responders who risked their lives – on that day, and every day since,” Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address.
“And it’s an opportunity to give thanks for our men and women in uniform who have served and sacrificed, sometimes far from home, to keep our country safe,” he added.
Memories remain raw of the day when Al-Qaeda hijackers slammed two passenger planes into the World Trade Center in New York, destroying its iconic Twin Towers, and a third into the Pentagon building, in the nation’s capital.
A fourth plane crashed in a Pennsylvania field when the passengers valiantly overpowered the hijackers.
Almost 3,000 people were killed that day in the worst attacks on American soil.
The 9/11 remembrances unite Americans like almost no other event. According to some polls, 97 percent of people remember where they were when they heard the news, on a par with John F. Kennedy’s assassination.
Obama said the attacks 11 years ago filled Americans with questions about the origins of terrorism and how America should respond to it.
“The last decade has been a difficult one, but together, we have answered those questions and come back stronger as a nation,” he noted.
The president said the United States had now decimated Al-Qaeda’s leadership and put the terror network on a path to defeat.
“And thanks to the courage and skill of our intelligence personnel and armed forces, Osama bin Laden will never threaten America again,” he pointed out.
He did not go into details of the May 2011 US special forces operation in Pakistan that left the Al-Qaeda founder and mastermind of the 9/11 attacks dead.
The operation generated more controversy over the past several weeks with the release of a book by a member of a US commando team that killed bin Laden.
The author of “No Easy Day” identified by US media as Matt Bissonnette said an unarmed bin Laden was shot in the head as he peered out of a doorway and then pumped with bullets as he convulsed on the floor.
The account contradicted the official version of the events, under which bin Laden was shot dead when he tried to reach for a gun.
Obama did not comment on the book whose author may face criminal charges for revealing classified information.
Instead, he focused on the handling of the aftermath of the attacks as a nation.
“Instead of pulling back from the world, we’ve strengthened our alliances while improving our security here at home,” the president said. “And our country is stronger, safer and more respected in the world.”
He praised Americans for resisting the temptation to give in to mistrust and suspicion and not declaring a war on Islam or any other religion.
And he pointed out that 11 years on, he could say with confidence that no adversary and no act of terrorism could change who Americans were.
“We are Americans, and we will protect and preserve this country we love,” Obama stressed. “On this solemn anniversary, let’s remember those we lost, let us reaffirm the values they stood for, and let us keep moving forward as one nation and one people.”