WASHINGTON — President Trump paid tribute on Tuesday to the airline passengers and crew members who stormed the cockpit of a hijacked plane and thwarted terrorists in the skies over Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001, vowing to follow their example by standing up to evil in the world.In his first trip to Shanksville, Pa., as…
WASHINGTON — President Trump paid tribute on Tuesday to the airline passengers and crew members who stormed the cockpit of a hijacked plane and thwarted terrorists in the skies over Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001, vowing to follow their example by standing up to evil in the world.
In his first trip to Shanksville, Pa., as president, Mr. Trump led a ceremony marking the 17th anniversary of the terrorist attacks by honoring the heroes who brought down United Airlines Flight 93 into an unpopulated field rather than allow it to be used as a weapon against the nation’s capital.
“We remember the moment when America fought back,” Mr. Trump said in a televised address at the Flight 93 National Memorial at the site of the crash, which killed 40 passengers and crew members. Referring to those on board who rose up that day in an effort to take back the plane, he said, “They boarded the planes as strangers and they entered eternity linked together as true heroes.”
Ceremonies were also held on Tuesday in New York, where two hijacked planes slammed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, and at the Pentagon, where another plane was used to attack the headquarters of the American military. Vice President Mike Pence and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis led the commemoration at the Pentagon.
In New York, police officers gathered at the Midtown North Precinct where flags were lowered to half-staff and names were read of colleagues who were lost rushing into buildings trying to save lives. “Never miss a chance to let those held dearest know your love for them,” the precinctsaid on its Twitter feed, using a heart symbol for the word love.
Mr. Trump was at Trump Tower on the day of the attack, not far from the World Trade Center. He famously claimed during his presidential campaign that “thousands and thousands of people were cheering” in Muslim communities in Jersey City, N.J., when the World Trade Center collapsed, an assertion thathas been widely debunked.
As he traveled to Pennsylvania on Tuesday, Mr. Trump offered praise for Rudolph W. Giuliani, who was the mayor of New York on the day of attacks and now serves as his personal attorney. “Rudy Giuliani did a GREAT job as Mayor of NYC during the period of September 11th,”Mr. Trump wroteon Twitter. “His leadership, bravery and skill must never be forgotten. Rudy is a TRUE WARRIOR!” Mr. Trump made no mention of former President George W. Bush or other political leaders from that day.
Arriving at John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport not far from the site of the Shanksville crash, Mr. Trump greeted supporters with a double-fist pump,an imagecaptured by news photographers and shared on social media, where it generated criticism of the president for seeming less than solemn.
At the ceremony, however, he appeared subdued and sober as a Navy quintet played “America the Beautiful” and the national anthem. A bell tolled for each of the 40 victims and their names were read aloud, sometimes by emotional relatives. In one case, four children too young to have been alive on that day spoke the name of the grandfather they clearly never had the opportunity to meet.
Wearing a ribbon on his suit jacket, Mr. Trump was accompanied by Melania Trump as well as Ryan Zinke, the interior secretary, and John R. Bolton, his national security adviser.
The ceremony was interrupted briefly by a staccato burst of pop-pop-pop, an unnerving moment that was quickly attributed to an electrical short in a sound mixer.
The event came just two days after the dedication of a 93-foot concrete-and-steel tower that will ring with wind chimes, the final phase of the memorial. Each of the chimes, one representing each of the 40 who died, generate different sounds, as unique as the individuals they are meant to honor.
Mr. Trump condemned “radical Islamic terrorism” and the “evil men bent on terror and conquest” who seized Flight 93 on that morning 17 years ago.
“We will remember that free people are never at the mercy of evil because our destiny is always in our hands,” Mr. Trump said, sticking close to the text of his remarks rather than extemporizing as he often does. “America’s future is not written by our enemies. America’s future is written by our heroes.”
Gordon Felt, president of Families of Flight 93 and a leading force behind commemorating the victims, praised the unity and diversity of the passengers on the plane that day. “They were able to come together in mere minutes not as 40 individuals but rather as one unified force,” said Mr. Felt, whose brother, Edward Felt, died on the plane. “They chose to stand together and fight as a single united group.”
He added that Americans today should “choose to rise up and be better as our loved ones did in their final moments.”