WOMAN: Elaine Cillo.
MAN: Today America observes the deadly terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
MAN: Nestor Andre Citron III (ph).
MAN: Ten years on, we recall the lives of loved ones lost.
WOMAN: I hope the words “never forget” maintain. And I hope they consistently ring true in people’s hearts.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We talk about what’s changed, and where are we now as Americans, and as a nation. In California, we find what some call the “9/11 generation,” grown up in a time of conflict and security fears.
WOMAN: I do believe that with time, the events of 9/11 won’t be so — it won’t feel so immediate, and they won’t define our entire life. It’s not going to be something we’ll forget. I know that much.
GWEN IFILL: At Fort Bragg, N.C., we experience the lasting impact 10 years of war have had on the military, our soldiers and their families.
WOMAN: I think we all thought that it wasn’t going to be this long. And I didn’t think that we all realized that we were going to lose so much. And we all have lost a lot.
MAN: How is the growing community of American Muslims in Murfreesboro, Tenn., living after the attacks?
MAN: I trust the judgment of American people a lot. The majority of the people are fine people. Otherwise, we cannot live together until today. So do you think everyone in our city will be fine with us? I would claim the majority will be.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Plus, we hear from Americans across the country on what Sept.11 means to them.
GWEN IFILL: All that and more. Tonight, “America Remembers 9/11.”
JUDY WOODRUFF: It has already been filled with memories and solemn ceremonies, concludes with one more. You’re looking at the crowd assembled at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington for tonight’s Concert for Hope.
In a few minutes, President Obama will address this audience as the nation watches and listens in. It will be the only speech he’s given today, although he has participated in memorial ceremonies at all three of the sites that were attacked 10 years ago on this date.
Good evening. I’m Judy Woodruff.
GWEN IFILL: And I’m Gwen Ifill. Welcome to this PBS NewsHour special. For the next 90 minutes, the NewsHour team will report on today’s memorial events in New York City, at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pa. We’ll also hear your voices and reflections gathered from around the country, and from poets Nancy Mercado and Billy Collins, who have written about Sept. 11.
We’ll also apply the lessons of the past to the present with historians Michael Beschloss and Richard Norton Smith.
JUDY WOODRUFF: This event you’re watching at the cathedral is being sponsored by that institution. The concert originally was going to take place there, but the soaring building was damaged in the recent earthquake in this area, and it was eventually moved a few miles away to the Kennedy Center just to be on the safe side.
GWEN IFILL: There has been a long — this has been a long day for the president. He left Andrews Air Force Base at 6:30 this morning to attend the memorial service at ground zero in New York City. While he and the first lady continued on to Pennsylvania before returning to Washington, Vice President Biden visited the Pentagon, spending hours mingling with the families there.
We’ll bring you sights and sounds from those ceremonies after the president completes his remarks at the Kennedy Center later in the broadcast.
HARI SREENIVASAN: While we await the president’s speech, we begin our look at the day’s events, starting this morning in New York City, where it was clear, sunny and warm, not unlike that September day 10 years ago.
…at ground zero began gathering as the sun crept into the sky over Lower Manhattan. An enormous American flag was draped over construction near the site of the national Sept. 11 memorial. President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama were accompanied by former president George W. Bush and wife Laura. They toured the site and shared moments with family members of the victims before moving on to the stage for the ceremonies.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg remembered a day of terror in the collapse of the World Trade Center towers.
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, New York City mayor: Ten years have passed since a perfect blue sky morning turned into the blackest of nights. Since then, we’ve lived in sunshine and in shadow. And although we can never un-see what happened here, we can also see that children who lost their parents have grown into young adults, grandchildren have been born and good works and public service have taken root to honor those we loved and lost.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Then at 8:46 a.m., a bell tolled marking the instant when the first plane struck the north tower 10 years ago. Today’s events took place under even tighter security than already planned after reports last week of a possible car bomb plot. The president stood behind bulletproof glass as he read from Psalm 46.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear even though the earth be removed and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.
WOMAN: Gordon A. Amaf, Jr (ph)….
MAN: The centerpiece of the ceremony, as in years past, was a reading of the names of the victims.
WOMAN: Masaru Ose…
MAN: This year, there were 2,983 in total, all 2,977 killed in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania on 9/11, and the six killed in the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993. They were read in pairs by 334 family members.
WOMAN: Jody Tepedino Nichilo.
WOMAN: Kathleen Ann Nicosia.
MAN: Some added brief eulogies to lost spouses.
PAMELA MAGGITTI: And the love of my life, my Joe, my husband, Joseph Vincent Maggitti, Christopher and Lauren’s dad, now John’s father-in-law and John-John’s grandpop. We love you so much, Joe, and we miss you every single day.
MAN: And parents remembered children gone too soon.
JEFFERSON CROWTHER: And our courageous son, Welles Remy Crowther, the man in the red bandanna.
MARY WILLIAMS: And my daughter-in-law, Debby L. Williams, always a place in our hearts, your life taken too soon. Thank you for giving us our first granddaughter, Peyton (ph). You would be so proud of her as she enters grade six.
WOMAN: I know you’re looking down on me, and I hope you’re proud of what I’ve become.
MAN: Many speakers were children mourning parents they were perhaps too young to remember.
ALEX ZANGRILLI: And my father, Mark Zangrilli. Dad, I wish you were here with me to give me advice, to be on the sidelines when I play sports with all the other dads, but most of all because I love and miss you. I wish we had more time together, but I know you are watching me from heaven. I hope I am making you proud. Nikki (ph) and mom love you, too. Goodbye.
MAN: And others who had not yet been born.
NICHOLAS GORKI: And my father, Sebastian Gorki, who I never met because I was in my mom’s belly. I love you, Father. I love you for loving the idea of having me. You gave me the gift of life, and I wish you could be here to enjoy it with me.
MAN: The readings were interrupted at times for moments of silence to mark the time of each attack and the final collapse of the two towers, and for musical performances, as cellist Yo-Yo Ma performed a Bach cello suite.
Family members were also allowed into the newly opened memorial for the first time, to see the two pools, each an acre in size, with 30-foot waterfalls on all sides in the footprints where the twin towers once stood. Many found the names of loved ones etched in bronze and traced them with paper and pencils. Others placed photos, flowers and American flags. And still more embraced, wept, or silently reflected on their loss.
A quartet of trumpeters from the military and New York’s Port Authority police and fire departments playing “Taps” drew today’s five-hour ceremony to a close. Many lingered on, still taking in what has risen from ground zero, including the new One World Trade Center, already at the 80th of its planned 104 floors and stretching toward the sky and the future.
GWEN IFILL: We go back to the Kennedy Center now, where the president is about to speak at a concert which caps three days of 9/11 anniversary observances, a call to compassion. The president is scheduled to begin in a few moments. He’s being preceded by country music star Alan Jackson, whose hit song “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?” was written after the attacks and spent five weeks at the top of the country “Billboard” charts. He says the chorus and the melody of the song came to him in the middle of the night.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States, Barack Obama:
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
BARACK OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
The Bible tells us weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. Ten years ago, America confronted one of our darkest nights. Mighty towers crumbled, black smoke billowed up from the Pentagon, airplane wreckage smoldered on a Pennsylvania field. Friends and neighbors, sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters — they were taken from us with a heartbreaking swiftness and cruelty. And on September 12th, 2001, we awoke to a world in which evil was closer at hand and uncertainty clouded our future.
In the decades since, much has changed for Americans. We’ve known war and recession, passionate debates and political divides. We can never get back the lives that were lost on that day or the Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice in the wars that followed. And yet today it is worth remembering what has not changed.
Our character as a nation has not changed. Our faith in God and in each other — that has not changed. Our belief in America, born of a timeless ideal that men and women should govern themselves, that all people are created equal and deserve the same freedoms to determine their own destiny — that belief through tests and trials has only been strengthened.
These past 10 years have shown that America does not give in to fear. The rescue workers who rushed to the scene, the firefighters who charged up the stairs, the passengers who stormed the cockpit — these patriots define the very nature of courage.
Over the years, we’ve also seen a more quiet form of heroism in the ladder company that lost so many men and still suits up and saves lives every day, the businesses that have been rebuilt from nothing, the burn victim who’s bounced back, the families who press on.
Last spring, I received a letter from a woman named Suzanne Swain (ph). She had lost her husband and brother in the twin towers and said that she had been robbed of so many would-be proud moments where a father watches their child graduate or tend goal in a lacrosse game or succeed academically.
But her daughters are in college, the other doing well in high school. “It has been 10 years of raising these girls on my own,” Suzanne wrote. “I could not be prouder of their strength and resilience.”
That spirit typifies our American family, and the hopeful future for those girls is the ultimate rebuke to the hateful killers who took the life of their father. These past 10 years have shown America’s resolve to defend its citizens and our way of life. Diplomats serve in far-off posts and intelligence professionals work tirelessly without recognition. Two million Americans have gone to war since 9/11. They’ve demonstrated that those who do us harm cannot hide from the reach of justice anywhere in the world.
America’s been defended not by conscripts but by citizens who choose to serve, young people who signed up straight out of high school, guardsmen and reservists, workers and business people, immigrants and fourth-generation soldiers. They are men and women who left behind lives of comfort for two, three, four, five tours of duty. Too many will never come home. Those that do carry dark memories from distant places and the legacy of fallen friends.
The sacrifices of these men and women and of our military families reminds us that the wages of war are great and that while service to our nation is full of glory, war itself is never glorious. Our troops have been to lands unknown to many Americans a decade ago: to Kandahar and Kabul, to Mosul and Basra. But our strength is not measured in our ability to stay in these places. It comes from our commitment to leave those lands to free people and sovereign states and our desire to move from a decade of war to a future of peace.
These 10 years have shown that we hold fast to our freedoms. Yes, we’re more vigilant against those who threaten us, and there are inconveniences that come with our common defense. Debates about war and peace, about security and civil liberties have often be fierce these last 10 years, but it is precisely the rigor of these debates and our ability to resolve them in a way that honors our values and our democracy that is the measure of our strength.
Meanwhile, our open markets still provide innovators a chance to create and succeed. Our citizens are still free to speak their minds. And our souls are enriched in churches and temples, our synagogues and our mosques. These past 10 years underscores the bonds between all Americans. We have not succumbed to suspicion, nor have we succumbed to mistrust. After 9/11, to his great credit, President Bush made clear what we have reaffirmed today. The United States will never wage war against Islam or any other religion.
Immigrants come here from all parts of the globe, and in the biggest cities and the smallest towns, in schools and workplaces, you still see people of every conceivable race and religion and ethnicity, all of them pledging allegiance to the flag, all of them reaching for the same American dream. E pluribus unum — out of many we are one.
These past 10 years tell us a story of our resilience. The Pentagon is repaired and filled with patriots working in common purpose. Shanksville is the scene of friendships forged between residents of that town and families who lost loved ones there. New York, New York remains the most vibrant of capitals of arts and industry and fashion and commerce. Where the World Trade Center once stood, the sun glistens off a new tower that reaches towards the sky.
Our people still work in skyscrapers. Our stadiums are still filled with fans and our parks full of children playing ball. Our airports hum with travel and our buses and subways take millions where they need to go. And families sit down to Sunday dinner and students prepare for school. This land pulses with the optimism of those who set out for distant shores and the courage of those who died for human freedom.
Decades from now, Americans will visit the memorials to those who were lost on 9/11. They’ll run their fingers over the places where the names of those we loved are carved into marble and stone, and they may wonder at the lives that they led. And standing before the white headstones in Arlington and in peaceful cemeteries and small town squares in every corner of the country, they will pay respects to those lost in Iraq and Afghanistan.
They’ll see the names of the fallen on bridges and statues, in gardens and schools, and they will know that nothing can break the will of a truly United States of America. They will remember that we’ve overcome slavery and civil war. We’ve overcome red lines and fascism and recession and riots and communism, and yes, terrorism. They will be reminded that we are not perfect. Our democracy is durable, and that democracy, reflecting as it does the imperfections of man, also gives us the opportunity to perfect our union.
That is what we honor on days of national commemoration, those aspects of the American experience that are enduring and the determination to move forward as one people. More than monuments, that will be the legacy of 9/11, a legacy of firefighters who walked into fire and soldiers who signed up to serve, of workers who raised new towers and citizens who faced down their private fears, most of all of children who realized the dreams of their parents. It will be said that we kept the faith, that we took a painful blow and we emerged stronger than before.
Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. With a just God as our guide, let us honor those who have been lost. Let us rededicate ourselves to the ideals that define our nation, and let us look to the future with hearts full of hope. May God bless the memory of those we lost, and may God bless the United States of America.
JUDY WOODRUFF: That was President Obama speaking at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in the nation’s capital. And Gwen, what we were hearing, I think, from the president was an affirming message. It’s one that we’ve been hearing from members of his administration all day today, Vice President Biden at the Pentagon talking about the American spirit, the ties that bind this country together, the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, speaking about how Americans need to use this occasion to come together as a country, to rededicate ourselves.
So they’re trying to say, “Yes, we’re mourning, but there’s also a lot for us to be proud of about this country and to stay strong for.”
GWEN IFILL: You know, the theme of this program tonight at the Kennedy Center is honor, heal and hope. That’s the theme we have seen all day long. It’s actually the theme for our broadcast tonight. The president touched on a lot of the themes we’re going to be talking about — what happened to Muslim-Americans in this country after the attacks, what happened to our military, our stressed military, what happened to young people. We’re going to be touching on all those themes as we continue here tonight.
And now we want to turn to our friend and colleague, Hari Sreenivasan, who will give us the events of the day.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Thank you, Gwen. In the audience for the memorial concert this evening were many families of the people who died on 9/11 at the Pentagon and elsewhere. The ceremonies at the Pentagon stretched over much of the day today. We pick up there with our recap of this day of remembrance.
The day dawned clear just across from Washington at the Pentagon, where survivors, families, friends and dignitaries gathered to honor the 184 victims who died there. Under tight security, the crowd observed a moment of silence at 9:37 a.m., the exact minute when a jetliner slammed into the western side of the building.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the nation’s highest-ranking military officer, Adm. Mike Mullen, spoke of a day when hopes were tragically dashed.
ADM. MIKE MULLEN, Joint Chiefs chairman: You come here, we all come here to remember those hopes and to mourn and to honor. But the greatest honor we bestow, the finest tribute we pay lies not in our gathering, it lies in our hearts. It lies in our deeds.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The ceremony was punctuated from time to time by the sound of commercial jets overhead. It was an eerie reminder that on 9/11, the plane that struck the Pentagon, American Airlines Flight 77, had taken off from nearby Dulles International Airport before being hijacked.
The damage to the building has long since been repaired, but Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the stark memory lives on.
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LEON PANETTA: At this very moment, on this very spot, it is difficult to believe that 10 years ago, this was the scene of incredible devastation, of horrific fire and smoke, of heroic first responders who were struggling to bring victims to safety, searching for survivors, fighting the flames. And though 10 years have passed, the wounds are still present, the emotions still raw. You have always carried the memory of that day with you.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Vice President Joe Biden echoed that theme, evoking what he called the 9/11 generation of warriors.
VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN: Al-Qaida and bin Laden never imagined that the 3,000 people who lost their lives that day would inspire 3 million to put on the uniform and harden the resolve of 300 million Americans. They never imagined the sleeping giant they were about to awaken.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Before the ceremony concluded, members of the military laid white wreaths on each of the 184 benches that make up the memorial to the Pentagon victims. Later in the afternoon, President Obama also laid a wreath at the memorial.
And overseas, U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan also marked the grim occasion. In 10 years, more than 6,200 Americans have been killed in the two wars since the attack and more than 40,000 have been wounded. A stark reminder of that sacrifice came again overnight when nearly 80 U.S. soldiers were wounded in a truck bombing outside an American air base in eastern Afghanistan.
Memories were still fresh at the day’s third major 9/11 service, outside Shanksville, Pa., where United Airlines Flight 93 went down. The crash killed 40 passengers and crew after they struggled to retake that plane from four hijackers. Construction on a memorial began unfolding in 2009 with work on a wall of 40 marble blocks built over a former coal strip mine. The wall is now etched with the names of those who lost their lives. A crowd of nearly 5,000 paid tribute there today, reading out the names.
WOMAN: Lorraine G. Bay.
MAN: My lovely mother…
WOMAN: My beautiful sister, CeeCee Ross-Lyles.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Pennsylvania congressman Bill Shuster praised the passengers who learned of the attacks in New York and Washington and made a choice to fight.
REP. BILL SHUSTER, R-Pa.: This is the place where Americans said no, they weren’t going to stand for what was happening. They heard about it, and as horrific as the day was and to bring back those thoughts, it does bring a smile to my face to know they took a vote. Only in America would people take a vote, decide to make a plan and then act on it.
HARI SREENIVASAN: President and Mrs. Obama joined in paying their respects after the ceremonies. They laid a wreath next to the wall and met with family members. Overseas, relatives of Japanese bank employees killed on 9/11 laid flowers at a memorial in Tokyo.
And in Canberra, Australia, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said her country stands with the United States in remembrance and resolve.