President Obama offered remembrances for those killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks at a Pentagon ceremony on Wednesday. [WATCH VIDEO]
At a wreath-laying event, Obama said the nation’s “hearts still ache for the futures snatched away” in the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history.
“We pray for the memory of all those taken from us — nearly 3,000 innocent souls,” Obama said. Members of Congress will mark the anniversary with a ceremony on the Capitol steps, where lawmakers gathered after the attack in 2001 as a symbol of unity.
At the Capitol, dozens of lawmakers gathered to pay tribute to the fallen on Wednesday.
“I will never forget 12 years ago,” Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said, after singling out the “police officers, firefighters and all the first responders” who gave their lives or contributed on that day, some of whom, he pointed out, have fallen ill from the fumes they inhaled during rescue efforts.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) read a passage from the book of Isaiah in the Bible, and said that while the word “weary” has been bandied about to describe how citizens feel about the U.S. engagement in foreign wars, it was not a word that accurately depicts the bravery of those who “ran up the stairwell or stormed the cockpit” on Sept. 11.
“Yes, we’ve been through the crucible and we live in a dangerous world,” Boehner said. “But we can take heart that ours is the greatest cause and the work before us is not above our capacity or strength. After all, we’re Americans.”
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) in a separate statement said events in Syria and across the Middle East “are a powerful reminder of the global threat that radical extremists and terrorists pose to the United States and our closest allies.”
While past Sept. 11 anniversaries have served as holidays for partisan politics, that isn’t the case on Wednesday.
Several Republicans took to the House floor on Wednesday morning to criticize the administration’s handling of a terrorist attack last year in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans.
They also criticized Obama’s handling of the situation in Syria. Obama until Tuesday had been pressing Congress to authorize a military strike in that country.
Obama referenced Benghazi in his own remarks by paying tribute to the soldiers who had died in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, as well as the Benghazi terror attack.
“We pray for all those who've stepped forward in those years of war, diplomats who serve in dangerous posts, as we saw this day last year in Benghazi, intelligence professionals, often unseen and unheralded, who protect us in every way, our men and women in uniform who defend this country that we love,” Obama said.
Earlier Wednesday, the president was joined by Vice President Biden, their wives, and members of the White House staff for a moment of silence on the South Lawn.
Later in the day, the will participate in a service project in Washington for the Sept. 11 National Day of Service and Remembrance.
Late Tuesday night, White House spokesman Jay Carney released a statement saying the president had met with his national security team to discuss efforts the administration has been taking to prevent 9/11-related terror attacks.
In an interview earlier this week with CNN, Obama said that the nation was “always on a heightened alert on 9/11.”
“We still have threats out there, particularly outside of the homeland,” Obama said.
“And we also have lone wolf threats, as we saw during the Boston Marathon Bombing,” he continued. “So we have to remain vigilant. We're not going to be able to protect ourselves 100 percent of the time against every threat, but what we do is make sure that we understand these threats are real. We have to be prepared, but not overreact in ways that potentially compromise our values and our ideals over the long-term."
This story was posted at 7:39 a.m. and was updated at 11:25 a.m.