Subject: Pool #2 (Pentagon)
Motorcade left the White House for Pentagon at 9:16am. We sped past the
State Dept, the flag outside at half mast. Several buildings in Roslyn have
large American flags draped outside from the roof or high stories.
Arrive Pentagon at 9:30am.
POTUS, FLOTUS, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey,
chairman of the joint chiefs, and his wife filed to the memorial garden,
and POTUS placed a wreath of white flowers on a stand above the stone
engraved: September 11, 2001 9:37am – the moment United Flight #77 slammed
into the western side of the Pentagon. A large American flag, draping down
from the roof, marked the spot.
Taps played, and POTUS, FLOTUS and the other civilians stood with hands
over hearts. Service members stood in a frozen
Those gathered – active military, the families of those who died here,
others – are advised to face the flag at half mast, honoring the 184 people
who died here on Sept 11, 2001. The national anthem played, and many in the
audience wiped tears off cheeks.
A prayer was offered to begin the commemoration, then Gen. Dempsey,
chairman of the joint chiefs, spoke about sacrifice and recovery, noting
the heroics of Chief Warrant Officer William Ruth, 57, of Mt. Airy, Md, who
gave his life to save others. “There were thousands like him,” Dempsey said
(Pentagon should have full transcript.)
Panetta then spoke of what he called “the worst attack ever on the United
States.” He mentioned those in the audience here the day of the attack -
the sights and smells they experienced and have never forgotten. His words
at times were drowned about by the noise of departing jets, some flying
“No one attacks the United States of America,” Panetta said. “In trying to
attack our strengths, the terrorists unleashed our greatest strengths – the
spirit and will to fight back.” Because of that, he said, the nation is
safer today than it was on the morning of the attack here.
“And we will continue to fight them – in Yemen, in North Africa and in
other places they try to hide,” Panetta said. “We will never stop until we
are sure America is safe.”
POTUS spoke next (please see transcript for exact quotes.) He said he and
the First Lady are “humbled again” to share this day with members of the
military and the families of those who died. He spoke of the ordinariness
of the day, and how quickly it changed to something horrible.
“No matter how many years pass, no matter how many times we gather on this
hallowed ground, know this – you will never be alone,” POTUS said. “Your
loved ones will never be forgotten.”
He noted that the attacks inspired 5 million people “to wear the uniform”
since that day.
“Finally when those loved ones were taken from us they left behind
unfinished work,” POTUS said. “This day reminds us that even the darkest
day gives way to a brighter dawn.”
“Somewhere a son is growing up with his father’s eyes, a daughter with her
mother’s laugh,” POTUS said. “No act can change who we are.”
“God bless the memories of those we lost, and God bless these United States
of America,” POTUS concluded.
The military band played “America the Beautiful,” as the roughly half-hour
long event concluded. POTUS and FLOTUS walked into the crowd, shaking hand,