By Nedra Pickler
WASHINGTON (AP) — For President Barack Obama, the prospect of more U.S. military action in the Middle East hung over his observance Wednesday of the Sept. 11 attacks that occurred a dozen years ago.
While Obama made no direct mention of the crisis in Syria, he vowed to “defend our nation” against the threats that endure, even though they may be different than the ones facing the country during the 2001 attacks.
“Let us have the wisdom to know that while force is sometimes necessary, force alone cannot build the world we seek,” Obama said during a ceremony at the Pentagon.
The president spoke the morning after an address to the nation where he defended a possible military strike on Syria in retaliation for a deadly chemical weapons attack. But he expressed some hope that a diplomatic solution might emerge that would keep the U.S. from having to launch a strike.
Among those gathered at the Pentagon Wednesday where family members of those killed on Sept. 11, 2001. Many wore red, white, and blue striped ribbons and some cried as the president spoke.
“Our hearts still ache for the futures snatched away, the lives that might have been,” Obama said.
The morning was sunny as it was a dozen years ago at the time of the attack, but the temperature was hotter and climbing toward a high in the 90s. A few in the crowd were treated for effects of the heat by military medics, and the president wiped his face with a handkerchief as he spoke.
The president also paid tribute to the four Americans killed one year ago in an attack on a U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, asking the country to pray for those who “serve in dangerous posts” even after more than a decade of war.
In a commemorative event at the Justice Department, Attorney General Eric Holder called on an audience of several hundred employees to remember “the nearly 3,000 innocent people whose lives were lost” and to pay tribute to the 72 law enforcement officers who were killed trying to save others.
Obama opened the day with a somber remembrance at the White House. The searing memory of death and destruction brought him to the South Lawn for a moment of silence and reflection a dozen years after terrorists emblazoned this date indelibly in people’s minds, hearts and calendars as “9/11.”
Along with first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and wife Jill Biden, the president walked out of the White House to the lawn at 8:46 a.m., EDT — the moment on Sept. 11, 2001, when the first plane hit the World Trade Center tower in New York.
Obama and staff assembled there with him bowed their heads to observe a moment of silence, and then listened as a bugler played “Taps.”
The president also planned to mark the anniversary by participating in a volunteer project Wednesday afternoon.
Cochran, Wicker statements
Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker, Republican senators from Mississippi, each issued statements on the Sept. 11 anniversary:
Cochran: “The victims of the attacks on that clear day 12 years ago are still remembered and mourned, as are the brave servicemen and women who have given their lives to combat terrorism. I hope all Americans will take a moment today to reflect on the price of freedom, and to appreciate its many blessings.”
Wicker: “Twelve years ago today, the horrific acts that unfolded in New York and Washington renewed the resolve of a country that has never shied away in the face of adversity. We saw the best of America in the selfless courage of firefighters, police, and the passengers of United Flight 93. We still see it in the troops fighting for our freedoms today.
“We honor those we have lost, and our prayers go out to their loved ones, who continue to bear the deepest pain of that fateful day. We also turn our thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families of the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi last year.
“Governor Phil Bryant has declared today a voluntary day of service and remembrance. I call on all Mississippians and Americans to come together to honor our many brave heroes.”