Obama honours 9/11 victims

2011-05-06 12:00

New York - President Barack Obama solemnly honoured victims of the September 11 2001 terror attacks on Thursday and declared that the killing of Osama bin Laden was an American message to the world: "When we say we will never forget, we mean what we say."

Standing at the gritty construction site of ground zero, where the World Trade Centre towers fell and a memorial now rises, the president laid a wreath of red, white and blue flowers for the nearly 3 000 who died.

For Obama, the day was about the importance of being in New York in the aftermath of the successful raid to find and kill bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader blamed for the attacks.

Obama addressed families who have watched and wondered for nearly a decade whether the government would track down its most infamous enemy.

On this special ground, Obama never mentioned bin Laden's name.

Still, this was where the terrorist inflicted his greatest damage in 2001 when hijacked airliners were crashed into the World Trade Centre.

Emotional New Yorkers

Nearly 200 other people died when a third airliner hit the Pentagon – Vice-President Joe Biden led a ceremony there on Thursday, and Bush Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld attended - and others were killed when yet a fourth aircraft crashed in Pennsylvania.

Enthusiastic, emotional New Yorkers waited on streets to see the president, but there were few displays like the more raucous exuberance of a few days earlier. There were happy faces, shouts of "USA! USA!" and flags waved in the crowd, but there also was heavy security and most people were cordoned off blocks from where the president could be seen.

Bin Laden was shot dead in a raid on his Pakistan compound early on Monday, the result of years of painstaking intelligence work and a covert military mission in which none of the US commandos was killed.

Days after the 2001 attacks, President George W Bush stood here with firefighters and a bullhorn. There was a different feel a decade later as another president paid his respects. Obama met with firefighters, then police, before having a solemn moment at ground zero and meeting privately with families of those who died.

"This is a symbolic site of the extraordinary sacrifice that was made on that terrible day," the president said at Engine 54, Ladder 4, Battalion 9. The firehouse in New York's theatre district lost 15 firefighters on 9/11. The fire crews gave him hearty applause.

Obama said the American pursuit of the terrorist leader "sent a message around the world but also sent a message here back home that when we say we will never forget, we mean what we say, that our commitment to making sure that justice is done is something that transcended politics, transcended party".

Obama to thank raid team

The president closed his eyes and clasped his hands at the outdoor memorial where the twin towers of the World Trade Centre once dominated the Manhattan skyline.

Mammoth fountains and reflecting pools mark the "footprints" of the fallen towers. Now the nearby skyline is filled with construction machinery. The emerging skyscraper informally known as Freedom Tower is more than 60 stories tall.

It wasn't a moment for celebrating the military operation that killed bin Laden; that may come on Friday, when the president visits Fort Campbell, Kentucky, home to the Army unit involved in transporting Navy Seals in and out of bin Laden's compound.

White House officials said Obama intended to privately thank participants in the raid.

Obama said on Thursday he hoped the results of the raid on bin Laden's compound showed that "we did what we said we were going to do, and that Americans, even in the midst of tragedy, will come together, across the years, across politics, across party, across administrations, to make sure that justice is done".

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who led the city in the days after the attacks, joined Obama during the day.

Photo debacle

Obama invited Bush to join him on Thursday in New York, but the former president declined.

Meanwhile, the debate over photos of bin Laden's death continued. Obama announced earlier he does not intend to make them public.

Several Republican presidential hopefuls want them released.

Texas Representative Ron Paul said on Thursday that he sides with transparency when there is public doubt. Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty said "it would have been OK to release the photos". And former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin accused Obama of "pussy-footing" on making the photos public.

  • Alcapone123 - 2011-05-06 12:12

    An SA style story about the US foreign policy blunder by use of a simple parable There were once two feuding sheep farmers living in Limpopo. One a small scale farmer and one a large scale farmer. One day the small scale farmer decides he has no choice but to kill one of the large scale farmer’s sheep to show how unhappy he is with the way the large scale farmer treats him. The large scale farmer finds the one dead animal, and proceeds to kill over 330 of the small scale farmers innocent sheep. As payback! The large scale farmer decides that the death of 330 sheep for the 1 the lost is not sufficient, he then decides the best idea would be to kill the small scale farmer himself and the take his sheep. Sound just and noble? Oh, I almost forgot - all the large scale farmers friends come and throw a party when they find out he has killed the other farmer and his 330 sheep. Absurd? So to state the obvious: The large scale farmer is the USA The small scale farmer killing the 1 sheep is the deaths of 2900 Americans on Sept 11 The 330 innocent sheep is the 900 000 Iraqi and Afgan CIVILIANS killed by US forces since invasion The party is what we currently see happening in US Streets at the announcement of Bin Ladens killing Are 330 innocent sheep ever justifiable? Who should be put on trial? The person who kills one sheep? Or the one committing genocide of the whole flock? Food for thought? Read more on the actual numbers etc below. References to note:

      Jack - 2011-05-06 12:39

      What an idiot you are! The US have not killed 900 000 people in their middle east wars. Are you suggesting that if an iraqui suicide bomber blows up 50 people, those people are killed by the US? You should know that wikipedia is inadmissable as fact - ask any academic what happens to a student when the cite wiki as a source. You would rather have Saddam waging war on his neighbours and killing his own people? You would rather have the oh-so-humane policies of the taliban in afghanistan? Have you added up how many people died under those regimes? Would you like to see what happens if Iran was able to execute its ambitions in the region, unchecked? You chop!

      slg - 2011-05-07 07:16

      Don't listen to these delusional people everyone, they don't know what they're talking about. Here is a clean, reliable source on what is really happening in Afghanistan, Western Pakistan and with the fundamentalist Islamic insurgency. It's clean and reliable, non-commercial. The DVD "Fighting for Bin Laden" is good. I think you can watch it online.

  • Alcapone123 - 2011-05-06 12:56

    Hi Jack You will notice that there are links to UN reports and other VERY credible independent organisations from the WIKI site - these highlight the number of civilian casualties linked directly to US bombing raids. Hundreds of thousands. At this point these countries no longer have working infrastructure, their assets are being raped and their civilians are being killed at an unprecedented rate. I think they probably would argue that THEIR lives were in fact better. Put yourself in their shoes for a moment?

      V. Zela - 2011-05-06 13:15

      You don't seem very bright for a guy called Alcapone

      slg - 2011-05-07 07:15

      You have no idea what you're talking about. You're a danger to yourself and all of us sane people who want to choose the way we want to live our lives. Listen, and listen good: the fundamentalist Islamic insurgency's days are numbered. You would be best advised to change your thinking. You are on the wrong side of history.

  • slg - 2011-05-07 07:12

    Don't listen to these delusional people everyone, they don't know what they're talking about. Here is a clean, reliable source on what is really happening in Afghanistan, Western Pakistan and with the fundamentalist Islamic insurgency. It's clean and reliable, non-commercial. The DVD "Fighting for Bin Laden" is good. I think you can watch it online.

  • zebracobra - 2011-06-26 09:42

    Now USA must go for Molla omar in Pakistan nuclear bomb zone,he got same protection as their nuclear bomb with American money ha ha ha....

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