Obama to speak at private Pentagon ceremony for families of 9/11 victims

September 11, 2013

Today marks the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks when al-Qaeda operatives hijacked passenger jets and flew them into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center towers in New York City. Another attempted hijacking was foiled, and the plane crashed outside Shanksville, Pa.

President Obama spoke earlier today at a private ceremony at the Pentagon for the families of the victims of the attack there:

The private ceremony, which is to include a wreath-laying and a moment of silence, is to begin at approximately 9:30 a.m., shortly before the time 12 years ago when a hijacked American Airlines jet was flown into the Pentagon, killing 125 people in the building and 59 passengers on the plane.

Obama is to speak at the ceremony, along with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin E. Dempsey.

Hagel and Dempsey will speak at a second ceremony for building employees at 1 p.m. in the Pentagon’s center courtyard.

The second ceremony “is an opportunity for the Pentagon community to come together,” the Defense Department said in a statement.

The 9/11 anniversary is also being marked with ceremonies in New York City at the World Trade Center site and at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa., where Interior Secretary Sally Jewell broke ground Tuesday on a planned National Park Service visitors center.

Steve Vogel

The memorial in Shanksville remains underfunded, notes Al Kamen:

The capital fundraising campaign has been completed, foundation officials announced Monday, but that didn’t include $1.5 million for the “Tower of Voices,” the site’s signature feature, as well as some educational programs. The tower would stand 93 feet high and include 40 wind chimes — one for each of the passengers and crew members on Flight 93.

We should note that the memorial to victims at the Pentagon was completed five years ago. The World Trade Center Memorial was completed on Sept. 11, 2011. Shanksville, without the deep-pocketed defense industry here or the financial industry in New York, has struggled to raise the money to complete work there, though the memorial is open to visitors.

Now, let’s see, were it not for the heroic actions of the passengers and crew, many of the estimated 5,000 people in and around the Capitol 12 years ago today would have been killed or injured.

That would include countless Hill staff members and tourists and surely a substantial number of well-heeled lobbyists. Oh, and a fair number of the 535 members of Congress who were up there as well. (Both houses were in session at the time.)

But it appears that well fewer than 15 contributions have came from lawmakers who were there that day or the 300 who have been elected to the House and Senate since then.

So more than 30 uniformed flight attendants walked the halls of Congress on Tuesday, dropping off letters appealing for help from each member, most all of whom are strong supporters of voluntary giving.

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants and other unions are also re-soliciting their combined 100,000 members for a final push to close the funding gap and finish the memorial.

Al Kamen

Meanwhile, a Senate committee is reviewing the work of the Department of Homeland Security, established in response to the attacks, at a hearing today:

The panel is scheduled to hear testimony from former lawmakers and past DHS officials, including Tom Ridge, who was the first homeland security secretary, and retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, who served as national incident commander during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Congress and former President George W. Bush created the DHS in 2003, pulling together 22 federal agencies into a new cabinet-level department charged with coordinating and enhancing the nation’s homeland security efforts.

The committee will discuss lessons from past events such as Hurricane Katrina, the Boston Marathon bombing, and a growing number of cyberattacks affecting, the government, the private sector and the nation’s critical infrastructure, according to congressional aides.

The hearing on Wednesday begins at 9:30 a.m.

Josh Hicks

Today is also the first anniversary of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. A bomb exploded in Benghazi today, though no one was seriously injured:

The early morning blast targeted a building that once housed the U.S. Consulate under the rule of King Idris, who former Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi overthrew in a 1969 bloodless coup. The explosion caused no serious casualties, though several passers-by were slightly wounded, officials said.

The bomb blew out a side wall of the building, leaving desks, filing cabinets and computers strewn among the concrete rubble. It also damaged the Benghazi branch of the Libyan Central Bank along a major thoroughfare in the city.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which also comes on the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in the U.S. The security officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to journalists.

Gaddafi was killed after eight-month uprising that descended into a civil war in 2011. Since then, successive Libyan interim governments have failed to impose law and order. The country remains held hostage by unruly militia forces initially formed to fight Gaddafi. The militias, which have huge stockpiles of sophisticated weaponry, now threaten Libya’s nascent democracy.

Car bombs and drive-by shootings since the end the civil war routinely kill security officials in Benghazi, the birthplace of the uprising.

Associated Press

For a list of ceremonies and events in the Washington area today, consult this page.

Max Ehrenfreund is a blogger on the Financial desk and writes for Know More and Wonkblog.
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