“They attacked the enemy,” he said. “They fought until the very end. And they stopped the forces of terror and defeated this wicked, horrible, evil plan.”
Hundreds of people gathered under gray skies on a chilly morning to pay remembrance to the 33 passengers, seven crew members and one unborn child who perished when Flight 93 slammed into an open field here 17 years ago.
They dressed in Windbreakers and sweatshirts and jeans and baseball caps and sat in white folding chairs in the muddy field. Some sported Trump campaign gear, including red “Make America Great Again” baseball hats, while others donned black-and-yellow Pittsburgh Steelers paraphernalia.
“Today all of America wraps up and joins together,” Trump said from a covered stage that was set up for him to deliver remarks and join in the observance. “We close our arms to help you shoulder your pain and to carry your great, great sorrow. Your tears are not shed alone, for they are shared grief with an entire nation.”
The president noted the final parts of a memorial on the site were dedicated this week. Standing 93 feet tall, it includes 40 chimes.
People pause in the World Trade Center Oculus as the retractable skylight is opened during a morning commemoration ceremony for the victims of the attacks in New York. The skylight is opened only on the anniversary of 9/11. (Spencer Platt)
Photos from ceremonies marking the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks
During his remarks, Trump relayed the story of a wife of one of the victims who asked officials to find her husband’s wedding ring at the crash site. It took months, but the ring, inscribed with “all my love,” was eventually found and returned.
“America will never forget what your loved ones did for all of us,” Trump told the audience from a lectern bearing the presidential seal.
Six flags, including the Stars and Stripes, stood behind the lectern, marking the nationalities of those who died. There were also two blue signs, one reading “A Common Field One Day” and the other “A Field of Honor Forever.”
A boulder marking the spot where the plane crashed into the field was in the distance beyond the stage.
Trump’s remarks, on a morning when ceremonies were also held in New York and at the Pentagon outside Washington, largely reflected the tone of the other events. But the day included several discordant moments.
Before departing the White House, Trump unloaded on Twitter about his Justice Department, offering fresh criticism for not taking what he asserted is appropriate action against FBI agents who are biased against him.
Later, a photo went viral before the service here, showing Trump pumping both fists in the air after he landed in nearby Johnstown, Pa., before heading to the service.
And during his introduction of Trump, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke praised his boss for “his unwavering support for protecting our borders,” which sounded more like a political event and prompted cheers and applause from the crowd.
While Trump was waiting to speak here, Vice President Pence and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis participated in a separate service at the Pentagon outside Washington, where 184 people died.
In his remarks, Pence praised Pentagon personnel who had evacuated after the attack but went back in to help save others.
“These heroes saved countless lives,” he said. “It was a testament to their courage, their resilience. It was the Pentagon’s finest hour.”
Pence also touted investments in defense spending under the Trump administration.
“Under our administration, I’m proud to stay we’re making the strongest military in the history of the world stronger still,” he said.
Trump’s tweets about the Justice Department on Tuesday morning were interspersed with other tweets showing him signing a proclamation to honor victims of the 2001 terrorist attacks and another praising the leadership of Rudolph W. Giuliani, then the mayor of New York, for his response.
“His leadership, bravery and skill must never be forgotten. Rudy is a TRUE WARRIOR!” Trump wrote of Giuliani, who is serving as a personal attorney to Trump amid the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Trump later posted a tweet showing his departure from the White House and another that read: “17 years since September 11th!”
Wagner reported from Washington.