World

Trump pays tribute to victims in his first 9/11 ceremonies as president

U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, observed a moment of silence at the White House and then paid their respects at the Pentagon on the 16th anniversary of Sept. 11, with the president vowing that the U.S. will never forget the attacks.

Trump, VP Mike Pence, NYC officials attend tributes 16 years after attacks that killed nearly 3,000

Sombre moments on 16th anniversary of attacks on U.S. 1:24

U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, observed a moment of silence at the White House and then paid their respects at the Pentagon on the 16th anniversary of Sept. 11, saying that "the living, breathing soul of America wept with grief" for each of the lives lost 16 years ago.

The ceremonies were in remembrance of the nearly 3,000 people who were killed when hijackers flew commercial airplanes into New York City's World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field near Shanksville, Penn.

"Today our entire nation grieves with you," Trump said to the relatives of those killed. "No force on Earth can ever take away your memories, diminish your love or break your will to endure and carry on and go forward.

"Though we can never erase your pain or bring back those you lost, we can honour their sacrifice by pledging our resolve to do whatever we must to keep our people safe."

President Donald Trump and Melania Trump lead a moment of silence at the White House to mark the 16th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

The morning remembrance at the White House was scheduled for about the time the first plane struck one of the Twin Towers on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, at 8:46 a.m.

Trump, in the second ceremony, made note of the 184 who died in the Pentagon attack.

"All of them loved this country and pledged their lives to protect it. We pledge to never, ever forget them."

Trudeau honours Canadian lives, efforts

The Pentagon ceremony also included Defence Secretary James Mattis and Gen. Joseph Dunford, chair of the joint chiefs of staff.

Mattis said the U.S. military stands ready around the world to combat terrorist organizations.

"To the families of those who perished, the loss you have endured drives us in our mission today and every day," he said.

Trump continued that theme of might, promising that those who attempt to attack the U.S. would "join the list of vanquished enemies who dared to test our mettle."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released a statement on the anniversary, mentioning the 24 Canadians were killed on that day, and remembering the sacrifices of Canadians who took in stranded travellers. He also expressed gratitude for the work of the military, law enforcement and intelligence communities

"While recent events have shown that no country is immune to senseless acts of terror, we must stand united — as an international community — against violence and all acts that seek to sow fear and division," said Trudeau. "Such acts only strengthen our resolve to counter hate by promoting the values of diversity, inclusion and peace."

Vice-President Mike Pence attended a ceremony outside the park's visitor centre in Shanksville, some 95 kilometres southeast of Pittsburgh. It began at 9:45 a.m., the time that federal investigators determined passengers decided to revolt against their four al-Qaeda hijackers.

"Without regard to personal safety, they rushed forward to save lives," he said. "I will always believe that I and many others in our nation's capital were able to go home that day and hug our families because of the courage and sacrifice of the heroes of Flight 93."

'I'll come every year'

In New York, a gathering of an estimated 1,000 including victims' relatives, survivors and rescuers observed a sombre ceremony.

Monday's commemoration began with a moment of silence and tolling bells at 8:46 a.m. A second bell tolled at 9:03 a.m. at Ground Zero to mark the moment a second plane slammed into the World Trade Center's south tower.

Then victims' relatives began reading the names of the nearly 3,000 people killed at the various attack sites.

Officers stand in silence at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum during ceremonies in New York. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Every Sept. 11, Rob Fazio has come to the place where his father, Ronald Carl Fazio, and thousands of others died.

"I'll come every year for the rest of my life," the son said. "It's where I get my strength."

Some said they couldn't believe 16 years had passed since a tragedy that still seemed so present on the anniversary. To others, it was an occasion to plead for a return to the sense of unity they felt after the attacks.

"Our country came together that day. And it did not matter what colour you were, or where you were from," said a tearful Magaly Lemagne, who lost her brother, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey police officer David Prudencio Lemagne.

She implored people to "stop for a moment and remember all the people who gave their lives that day.

"Maybe then we can put away our disagreements and become one country again."

Dubious 9/11 claims by Trump

A native New Yorker, Trump has a mixed history with Sept. 11. He frequently cites the attacks to praise the city's response but also makes unsubstantiated claims about what he did and saw on that day.

Trump often lauds the bravery of New York police officers, firefighters and other emergency responders who rushed to the Twin Towers, in some cases knowing they probably wouldn't make it out alive, as an example of the resilience of the city where he made a name for himself.

But Trump has criticized President George W. Bush's handling of the attacks, accusing his fellow Republican of failing to keep Americans safe.

A flower rests over names at the edge of the south reflecting pool at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum during ceremonies on Monday. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Trump has also made dubious claims about Sept. 11, particularly his claim that thousands of Muslims were cheering in Jersey City, N.J., across the Hudson River from Lower Manhattan, as the towers collapsed. There is no evidence in news archives of mass celebrations there by Muslims.

Trump has also said he lost "hundreds of friends" in the attack and that he helped clear rubble afterward. Trump has not provided the names of those he knew who perished in the attack, but has mentioned knowing a Catholic priest who died while serving as a chaplain to the city's fire department.

The observances come as Trump grapples with the death and destruction caused by two hurricanes in three weeks. He began his remarks by offering prayers to those affected by Hurricane Irma's landfall in Florida and its expected path toward Georgia and Tennessee.

With files from CBC News