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Trump praises 'brave patriots' of Flight 93 during 9/11 anniversary ceremony
President Trump on Tuesday paid tribute to the passengers and crew of United Flight 93 and pledged on the 17th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks that the country would take inspiration from their actions.
"This field is now a monument to American defiance. This memorial is now a message to the world: 'America will never, ever, submit to tyranny,' " Trump said during a ceremony in Shanksville, Pa.
The president and first lady Melania Trump visited the memorial site where Flight 93 crashed on Sept. 11, 2001, killing 40 passengers and crew members who fought to retake control of the hijacked plane. The president donned a ribbon honoring the victims of the crash, whom he lauded as "brave patriots" who rose up and "changed the course of history."
"We honor their sacrifice by pledging to never flinch in the face of evil and by doing whatever it takes to keep America safe," Trump said.
Trump spoke for roughly 20 minutes, peppering in personal details and stories from those who died or lost loved ones. The president referenced final phone calls from those aboard the plane, the coordinated efforts among passengers to fight back, and one woman's search for her husband's wedding ring among the wreckage.
He assured the dozens of family members in attendance that the rest of the U.S. joined in their grief, and the nation is united on the anniversary of the attacks.
Tuesday's ceremony came two days after state and local leaders in Pennsylvania formally dedicated the Tower of Voices, a 93-foot memorial at the crash site honoring those who died on the flight. Speaking just a short distance from the new monument, Trump suggested the structure would provide a constant reminder of the bravery of those who died.
"We will remember their faces, their voices, their stories their courage, and their love," Trump said. "And we will remember that free people are never at the mercy of evil, because our destiny is always in our hands.
"America's future is not written by our enemies. America's future is written by our heroes," he continued. "As long as this monument stands, as long as this memorial endures, brave patriots will rise up in America's hours of need, and they, too, will fight back."
Other speakers during Tuesday's memorial included Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D), former Gov. Mark Schweiker (R), Gordon Felt, whose brother died aboard Flight 93, and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Prior to their remarks, an officiant read off the names of the victims of the crash.
Before Zinke took to the podium, an electric short caused a burst of small pops, briefly interrupting the ceremony.
Zinke commended the courage of those aboard Flight 93. He later drew applause from the crowd when he thanked Trump for his "leadership on national security, his support of law enforcement, first responders and his unwavering support of protecting our borders."
While Trump spoke in Pennsylvania, Vice President Pence joined Defense Secretary James Mattis at a ceremony at the Pentagon, and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen delivered remarks at the Transportation Security Administration's headquarters.
Trump, who last year attended a service at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, has a complicated history with 9/11.
A native New Yorker, Trump has consistently praised the work of first responders following the attacks, and on Tuesday he took to Twitter to tout the work of his current attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who served as the city's mayor at the time of the attacks.
Trump has also made a number of more controversial statements about Sept. 11, such as when he falsely claimed that "thousands and thousands of people were cheering" in New Jersey when the Twin Towers collapsed. He has also in the past appeared to blame former President Clinton for the attack for failing to kill Osama bin Laden.