Obama leads US in moment of silence for 12th 9/11 anniversary
Security heightened at US facilities abroad following fatal attack at Benghazi last year
US president Barack Obama temporarily set aside his Syrian agenda to lead the US in a moment of silence to observe the 12th anniversary of 9/11, the worst terrorist attack on American soil.
Families and friends of victims are also gathering near Ground Zero to remember those who died .
They stood silent at 8.45am (1.45pm Irish time), the time on September 11th 2001, when a hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 smashed into the north Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. Almost 3,000 people died in the terrorist attacks.
“On September 11, 2001, no matter where we came from, what God we prayed to, or what race or ethnicity we were, we were united as one American family,” Mr Obama said in a proclamation issued yesterday. “May the same be said of us today, and always.”
The proclamation declared today as Patriot Day and a National Day of Service. US flags were to be lowered to half- staff, and the president called on the nation to observe a moment of silence at 8.46am and mark the day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.
The president was scheduled to participate in a separate ceremony later today at the Pentagon, which was hit by American Airlines Flight 77, the jet hijacked and turned into a weapon killing 59 passengers and crew and 125 people on the ground.
Mr Obama also planned to participate in a service project in the afternoon in the Washington DC area.
The Obama administration said in a statement that it has taken several steps to prevent another 9/11-style attack in the US.
Mr Obama’s counterterrorism aide Lisa Monaco has been in charge of reviewing security measures in place for the anniversary, the White House said.
Four Americans including the US ambassador to Libya were killed in an attack on a compound in Benghazi a year ago. The administration initially said the assault grew out of anti-Western protests. Later, however, it turned out that Islamist extremists launched the attack on the September 11th anniversary.
The administration was forced for months to defend its handling of the events at Benghazi, with critics charging officials deliberately played down the nature of the attack to protect the president’s re-election bid. The White House said its first reports were based on incomplete information. “The events of last year, losing four brave Americans - Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods - brought home the reality of the challenges we face in the world,” the White House said.