By Peter Schroeder - 09/11/11 04:00 PM EDT
President Obama acknowledged some changes since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but maintained that the fundamental aspects of American life have held strong.
"Ten years later, I would say America came through in a way that is consistent with our character," he told NBC News in an interview. "I'm struck by how much continuity there is."
"There's no doubt that airports are a lot more inconvenient. Pennsylvania Avenue is shut down," he said.
Nonetheless, the president maintained that the more innate aspects of how America and its citizens function have remained intact.
"The truth of the matter is, there have been some changes since 9/11, some innocence perhaps has been lost, but our core values...those things haven't changed. And that's a testimony to the strength of the American people," he said.
But at the same time, he also acknowledged the persistent threats that remain against the U.S., including threats that have emerged as the nation approached Sunday's milestone.
"There are still people out there who will try to hurt Americans...we have to be constantly vigilant," he said.
"We are in a much stronger position now than we were then," he told NBC News, touting the efforts of the nation's intelligence and military officials, including "the sacrifices of the 9/11 generation that served in Afghanistan and Iraq."
He discussed a specific threat the government had learned of, which drove them to warn the public on Thursday of a specific, credible threat that might involve a truck bomb in either Washington or New York City.
"One particular threat was specific enough and credible enough that we thought it was important to inform state and local partners," he said.
Obama called on Americans to be on watch, but also highlighted the government's extensive preparation for Sunday's events.
"For months, we've been preparing for this 9/11 anniversary," he said. "We have done what we need to do in order to take the greatest precaution in dealing with this potential threat."
The president also recounted where he was on the day of the attacks, back when he was an Illinois state senator.
He was headed to a meeting in Chicago when he heard the news, and initially assumed it was a smaller plane that had accidentally struck the World Trade Center. But after arriving at the meeting, it was clear a passenger jet had struck the building, he said.
After being evacuated, the president said he went home, where his daughter, Sasha, had been born three months prior.
"I remember going home and holding Sasha, and rocking her to bed as I was watching the reports of what had happened," he said. "For me, like most of us, our first reaction was and continues to be just heartbreak for the families involved."
This story was posted at 8:20 a.m. and has been updated.