President Barack Obama embarked on a three-state tour Sunday to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
Obama, accompanied by first lady Michelle Obama, joined the country in mourning and remembering the nearly 3,000 who died in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, by attending memorials in New York City; in Shanksville, Pa.; and at the Pentagon. He was expected to make his first prepared remarks Sunday night at “A Concert of Hope” at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington.
In New York, Obama and the first lady were joined by President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush to pay respect at the National September 11 Memorial. At the North Memorial Pool, the site of the north tower of the World Trade Center, all four grazed their hands on the wall where the names of those who died there 10 years ago are etched.
The president read Psalm 46, opening with: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear.”
A White House spokesman said Obama chose the scripture because it was “particularly appropriate” with its message of “persevering through very difficult challenges and emerging from those challenges stronger.”
The president and first lady later participated in a solemn wreath laying in Shanksville at the crash site of United Airlines Flight 93. They were greeted by shouts of “USA, USA” from an enthusiastic crowd and spent about an hour on a rope line shaking hands, posing for photos and signing autographs, mostly with families of some of the fallen passengers.
A similar memorial ceremony took place a couple of hours later at the Pentagon, where Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, joined the president and first lady. After a wreath laying and moment of silence, they shook hands for more than 30 minutes with a crowd that included families of victims, building survivors and combatant commanders, as well as Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.).
It was a long day for the president, who departed the White House under dark, early morning skies at 6:19 a.m.
Sunday night’s event, which begins at 8, was moved to the Kennedy Center because of recent damage to the National Cathedral. The event was to feature remarks from the president, as well as performances by renowned mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, country music star Alan Jackson and R&B legend Patti LaBelle.