Sunday, September 11, 2011

Shanksville: Obamas Visit Flight 93 Memorial

First Couple meets with family members, lays wreath at crash site...
After a morning memorial ceremony at Ground Zero to mark the tenth anniversary of 9/11, President Obama and First Lady Obama flew to Shanksville, Pennsylvania to visit the Flight 93 National Memorial. Joined by the families of those lost on the flight, they participated in a wreath laying ceremony at the undulating wall of marble that is engraved with the names of those who perished on Flight 93, as they attempted to wrest control of the aircraft from the hijackers. (Above: The President and Mrs. Obama bow their heads after the wreath was placed)

The crowd cheered as the President and Mrs. Obama began the wreath laying ceremony, following two service men carrying the wreath into the memorial. One of the flowers fell off the red and white carnation wreath, and Mrs. Obama returned it to its rightful spot as the wreath was set in place.

After the wreath was positioned, the President and Mrs. Obama paused, standing with their heads bowed and hands clasped as all observed a moment of silence.

Now a pastoral mountainside covered with wildflowers, the Shanksville memorial is not yet finished being built. It opened formally on Saturday, during a ceremony led by Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. (Above: The First Lady hugs a Flight 93 family member)

An enthusiastic crowd greeted the First Couple with cheers and shouts of "USA, USA" as they made their way over to sign autographs, pose for pictures and dole out plenty of hugs. They spent nearly an hour on the rope line, most of it with families. "Michelle, we love you," one woman called from the crowd.

Linda White, of Hamburg, New York, told President Obama that her husband, David White, had completed a motorcycle ride following the flight path of Flight 93. David's cousin, Louis J. Nacke, perished on the flight. (Above: The President greets the crowd)

"We didn't even know he was on the plane until way past suppertime," Linda told the President of Nacke, and said he was making a last minute trip for business.

"God bless you and our country," Linda said.

Several service members told the President it was "an honor to serve you, sir."

"Take care everyone, God bless you," President Obama called to the crowd as he departed.

The First Couple also visited the boulder that marks the actual crash site of the plane. They stood quietly in the field for a long while, according to pool, gazing into the distance. They held hands as they walked back. (Above: The President and First Lady at the boulder)

Later on Sunday, the President and First Lady visited the Pentagon to mark the anniversary with families of those killed in the terror attacks. The President also released a special video message for 9/11 families. In the evening, President Obama made his only extended formal remarks of the day, at "A Concert for Hope" at the Kennedy Center.

On Saturday, the President and Mrs. Obama visited Arlington National Cemetery, where they walked, holding hands, through graves in Section 60, the resting place for heroes lost in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the afternoon, the First Family performed community service at DC Central Kitchen as part of the September 11 National Day of Service and Remembrance.

*Top two photos by Samantha Appleton/White House; others by AP

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