President Trump marked the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks with a stark warning that the U.S. will protect itself from “tyranny” and “evil,” invoking the Flight 93 passengers and crew who fought back against hijackers as heroic examples of American resolve.
Speaking near Shanksville, Pa., at a memorial to Flight 93, Mr. Trump pledged that the U.S. under his watch will take bold steps to guard against terrorist threats.
He recounted how, 17 years earlier, the passengers voted among themselves to battle the hijackers after learning through phone calls of other attacks that morning—actions that kept the terrorists piloting the jet from reaching their target in Washington, D.C. All 44 people aboard the United Airlines flight, including the hijackers, died when the plane crashed in a Pennsylvania field.
“We honor their sacrifice by pledging to never flinch in the face of evil and do whatever it takes to keep America safe,” Mr. Trump said, slowing his cadence for emphasis.
The site of the crash, he said, “is now a monument to American defiance. This memorial is now a message to the world: America will never, ever submit to tyranny.”
Nearly 3,000 people were killed in the Sept. 11 attacks, the worst terrorist strike on American soil. That sunny morning, hijackers also flew planes into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers in New York City and crashed a plane into the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., just across the river from Washington, D.C.
Senior Trump administration officials fanned out across Washington on Tuesday to mark the anniversary.
Vice President Mike Pence and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis took part in a ceremony at the Pentagon, which was targeted by hijackers aboard American Airlines Flight 77. Meantime, Attorney General Jeff Sessions gave remarks at the Justice Department.
Mr. Mattis said that “we remember that hatred disguised in false religious garb to murder innocents will not prevail.”
Mr. Trump spent much of his 15-minute address near Shanksville carefully recounting the actions of passengers and crew who sought to wrest Flight 93 from the hijackers’ control. Passengers who boarded the plane as strangers demonstrated the grit needed to combat terrorist threats, he suggested in his remarks.
“They bravely charged the cockpit,” he said. “They attacked the enemy. They fought until the very end and they stopped the forces of terror and defeated this wicked, horrible, evil plan.”
Before the ceremony, the president spent part of the morning tweeting about the terrorist attacks while also airing longstanding grievances about other matters.
“17 years since September 11th!” he wrote.
He commended former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s leadership after the World Trade Center was attacked.
“His leadership, bravery and skill must never be forgotten. Rudy is a TRUE WARRIOR!” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter.
Mr. Giuliani is now one of his personal lawyers handling the Russia investigation.
Mr. Trump also used his Twitter feed to take aim at a favorite target: the Justice Department. Once again, he faulted the department for what he cast as political bias favoring Democrats. In one tweet he quoted Lou Dobbs, a Fox Business Network host, who said Monday that if Eric Holder, former attorney general under Democratic President Obama, were still running the department “it would be behaving no differently than it is,” run by Mr. Sessions, a Republican.
Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, sent out a more traditional message on the anniversary of the attacks: “Solemn remembrance for the innocent who lost their lives, the courageous who ran into the buildings, the broken-hearted who had loved ones ripped away in an instant. We will never forget,” she tweeted.
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