WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump paid tribute Tuesday to the people lost on 9/11, giving special honor to passengers who charged the cockpit of their plane to stop hijackers from attacking Washington, D.C.
"They attacked the enemy," Trump said on the Pennsylvania field where United Flight 93 crashed on Sept. 11, 2001. "They fought until the very end. And they stopped the forces of terror and defeated this wicked, horrible, evil plan."
Also praising the U.S. military, Trump vowed to protect the nation against what he called "radical Islamic terrorism."
As bells tolled and Americans stood in silence across the country, the president and first lady Melania Trump visited the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
The ceremony came two days after the dedication of a Tower of Voices. Built at 93 feet, the tower features 40 wind chimes, each representing a passenger or crew member on the doomed flight.
As at ceremonies at the World Trade Center in New York City and at the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C., mourners in Pennsylvania read off the names of the dead as bells tolled and visitors prayed.
As Trump flew aboard Air Force One to Pennsylvania, White House staff members gathered on the lawn at 8:46 a.m., the minute the first hijacked plane struck a tower of the World Trade Center.
Referring to the dead in New York City and at the Pentagon as well as Pennsylvania, Trump said, "We honor their sacrifice by pledging to never flinch in the face of evil and to do whatever it takes to keep America safe."
The president devoted most of his remarks to the passengers of Flight 93.
After hijackers flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, 40 passengers and crew aboard Flight 93 – believed to be headed to the U.S. Capitol or the White House – organized a charge into the cockpit to confront their captors.
Amid the struggle, which started with the phrase "Let's roll," the plane crashed into a field in Somerset County, north of Shanksville.
It was "the moment when America fought back," Trump said, and the Flight 93 passengers "joined the immortal ranks of American heroes."
Trump also told stories about individual passengers and their loved ones: the flight attendant who called her husband and said they were preparing to throw hot water on the hijackers; a man who told his wife "Stay on the line" because "I'll be back"; passengers who recited the Lord's Prayer; a woman who recovered her husband's wedding ring 2½ months after the attack.
"This field is now a monument to American defiance," Trump said. "This memorial is now a message to the world: America will never, ever submit to tyranny."
Nearly 5.5 million Americans have enlisted in the armed forces since 9/11, Trump said, and "nearly 7,000 service members have died facing down the menace of radical Islamic terrorism."
Some lawmakers have objected to Trump's use of the phrase "radical Islamic terrorism," saying it can be seen as blaming all Muslims. Trump did not use the phrase during a 9/11 event last year at the Pentagon.
Vice President Mike Pence attended a ceremony at the Pentagon, saying he wanted to "pay a debt of honor and remembrance." Pence said the nation must heed the lessons of 9/11 and "remain ever vigilant in defense of our nation."
Previous presidents also made statements on the 9/11 anniversary.
Saying the nation would never forget the victims or the first responders, President Barack Obama said on Twitter that "there's nothing our resilience and resolve can’t overcome, and no act of terror can ever change who we are."