American flags flown in areas across the country were lowered to half-staff by Thursday morning in remembrance of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Tribute events were planned throughout the day to mark the 13th anniversary of the tragedy that killed nearly 3,000 individuals on American soil.
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama observed a moment of silence at the White House to commemorate 8:45 a.m. ET when the first plane hit the north tower of the World Trade Center. The couple then attended a ceremony hosted by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey at the Pentagon. In a speech, the president noted the ability of the country to endure because of the survivors, first responders, armed forces and young Americans who soon will shape the future.
The terrorists "sought to prove to the world that their power to destroy was greater than our power to persevere and rebuild. But you and America proved them wrong," he said outside of the Pentagon.
"We carry on because, as Americans, we do not give in to fear," he added. "We count as blessed those who have persevered."
"We carry on because, as Americans, we do not give in to fear. We count as blessed those who have persevered."'
In New York, leaders and families of those killed in the attacks marked with silence the moment when the two towers were hit and subsequently fell. Relatives, some holding photographs and others wearing pins depicting images of their loved ones, read the name of each World Trade Center victim near the National Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum. Former New York City mayors Rudy Giuliani, who subsequently became known as "America's mayor," and Michael Bloomberg were present at Ground Zero for the remembrance. Both politicians were involved in the rebuilding of the city after the attacks.
"That night, I said to the people of New York: 'As a result of this attack, I want you to be stronger. I want you to build on it.' And they exceeded my expectations," Giuliani said Thursday on "Morning Joe." He also mentioned that there are twice as many people living in the city than before the attacks.
"That resiliency is a defense to terrorism. It's a way to say to terrorists: 'You can hit us hard, but you're not going to destroy our confidence,' " Giuliani added.
Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert addressed a crowd gathered at the site of the Flight 93 crash in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Passengers of the flight attempted to regain control of the plane from the hijackers on the morning of Sept. 11, thus diverting the aircraft from hitting the White House or Capitol and instead crashing in a rural field. Earlier this week, they received posthumous the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor from Congress. The names of each passenger were read, along with the ringing of a bell, at the location on Thursday morning.
More than 3,000 people are remembered in a moving tribute at the memorial museum, which was completed and dedicated in lower Manhattan earlier this year in May. The "Hall of Faces" includes photographs and biographies of every person who died at Ground Zero, on the hijacked planes and at the Pentagon. It also features 10,000 artifacts and 23,000 still images that commemorate the incident. Obama previously joined the victims of the families, first responders, survivors and recovery workers at the dedication.
"Here, we tell their story," Obama said during the ceremony, "so that generations yet unborn will never forget."
Workers finished construction of the Freedom Tower at One World Trade Center when they raised a 408-foot silver spire last spring. The iconic building, part of the city's 16-acre site to remember the victims of the attacks, now stands at 1,776 feet, making it the tallest structure in the country and the third-tallest in the world.