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President Trump on 9/11: 'America does not bend'

Standing near where a hijacked airliner nose-dived into the Pentagon 16 years ago, President Trump comemorated the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks Monday in a solemn tribute to the victims, the first responders and the nation.

“On that day, not only did the world change, but we all changed,” he said. “Our eyes were opened to the depths of the evil we face. But in that hour of darkness, we also came together with renewed purpose. Our differences never looked so small, our common bonds never felt so strong.”

It was one of scores of solemn ceremonies Monday marking the Al Qaeda attacks that claimed 2,977 lives and wounded thousands more when hijacked aircraft crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in a field in Pennsylvania.

Thousands gathered in Lower Manhattan for a moment of silence, prayer and the deliberate tolls of a silver bell to mark when the Twin Towers fell in the deadliest foreign attack on U.S. soil since the start of World War II.

Trump, a native New Yorker and real estate magnate, identifies strongly with Twin Towers and the people who were killed there. He speaks regularly about the terrorist threat.

"America does not bend. We do not waver and we will never ever yield," he said at the Pentagon.

"Our values will endure. Our people will thrive. Our nation will prevail and the memory of our loved ones will never ever die."

In his first Sept. 11 anniversary as president, Trump spoke of "every hero who keeps us safe and free" and the sacrifice of both first responders and soldiers. He defiantly warned terrorists of the testing the will of the American people.

“Terrorists tried to break our resolve," he said. "It's not going to happen. But where they left a mark in rubble, Americans bravely raised the stars and stripes.”

A large American flag hung from the roof of the vast five-sided building where American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the limestone facade on that warm, sunny morning. The flag billowed in gusts of wind under a clear blue sky.

The president and First Lady Melania Trump laid a large white wreath at the Pentagon's memorial wall, near the garden where curved benches represent people killed here that day. They were joined by Defense Secretary James N. Mattis and General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Vice President Pence made similar remarks at a windswept field in Shanksville, Penn., where a memorial was built to the passengers and crew killed when Flight 93 crashed. 

“In the wake of their sacrifice, America itself experienced a rebirth – a rebirth of unity, of purpose, and of dedication to our most sacred ideal of freedom,” Pence said.

He praised the passengers as “men and women who looked evil square in the eye” and fought against it.

The flight was enroute from Newark to San Francisco, when hijackers armed with box cutters took control the jet. U.S. investigators believe the hijackers planned to crash the plane into the U.S. Capitol when passengers revolted and forced the plane down.

"We grieve with every family of the innocent souls who were murdered by terrorists that day,” Pence said. “We will never forget what happened.”

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