Although no one realized it at the time, the world changed at 8:46 on the morning of September 11, 2001. A commercial airliner, one of four hijacked that day by 19 al-Qaida terrorists, crashed into one of New York's most recognizable buildings, the North Tower of the World Trade Center, setting it on fire and inflicting fatal damage on the building.
Another of the hijacked planes hit the South tower 17 minutes later; a third flew into the side of the Pentagon, the seat of the Department of Defense in Washington, D.C. The fourth never reached its destination, because shortly after it turned off its flight path and veered south toward Washington, the plane's passengers attacked the hijackers, and the airliner crashed in the sparsely-populated highlands of south-western Pennsylvania.
2,977 innocent people died as a direct result. They came from more than 90 nations around the world, from every continent, all age groups, and many different communities and faiths. On September 11, 2001, the terrorists targeted the United States, but attacked the entire world community.
As we reflect on this occasion, we should honor the courage and selflessness of first responders and others who aided those in need, and give thanks to those across the globe who have sacrificed to defend against terrorism. We should take inspiration from examples of resilience and solidarity that we have witnessed, not just in the hours and days following the 9/11 attacks, but in the months and years afterwards, in which ordinary Americans and citizens around the world have overcome the challenge of terrorist attacks.
Through partnership and friendship, the people of the world are sending a clear message to terrorists: that they have the strength, the spirit, and the solidarity to transform hardship into positive action.
As President Barack Obama has said, "This year and every year, we must ask ourselves: How do we honor these patriots -- those who died and those who served? In this season of remembrance, the answer is the same as it was 10 Septembers ago. We must be the America they lived for and the America they died for, the America they sacrificed for.
An America that doesn’t simply tolerate people of different backgrounds and beliefs, but an America where we are enriched by our diversity. An America that stands up for dignity and the rights of people around the world, whether a young person demanding his or her freedom in the Middle East or North Africa, or a hungry child in the Horn of Africa, where we are working to save lives.”