President Barack Obama spent Tuesday marking the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"Today we remember a day that began like so many others," he said during a morning ceremony at the Pentagon. "...It was a day like this one -- a clear blue sky, but a sky that would soon be filled with clouds of smoke and prayers of a nation shaken to its core."
During his nine-minute speech, Obama spoke directly to those who lost loved ones 11 years ago. "We will never fully understand how difficult it has been for you to carry on, to summon that strength and to rebuild your lives," he said.
Although the majority of those lost in the attacks had never put on a military uniform, Obama said, they nonetheless inspired more than five million others to do so.
"Today, the war in Iraq is over," he said. "In Afghanistan, we’re training Afghan security forces and forging a partnership with the Afghan people. And by the end of 2014, the longest war in our history will be over."
The president stressed that the war has been fought with al Qaeda, not with Islam. "Eleven years ago, memorial services were held for Americans of different races and creeds, backgrounds and beliefs.... This country was built as a beacon of freedom and tolerance. That’s what's made us strong, now and forever."
Following the ceremony at the Pentagon, he and first lady Michelle Obama visited Arlington National Cemetery.
While walking down an aisle of headstones, they stopped at a large gravestone for the president to place 10 coins on it. The coins honor 10 members of the military and DEA who were killed together in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan on Oct. 26, 2009.
The first couple also spoke for a moment with a man and a woman who work for the cemetery.
Earlier Tuesday, he and first lady Michelle Obama, along with hundreds of White House staff members, gathered on the South Lawn of the White House for a moment of silence to remember the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
At 8:46 a.m., approximately the time American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, a full Marine color guard emerged from the doors, as the Obamas walked slowly down a grassy strip and onto the lawn.
The first couple bowed their heads and clasped their hands during the moment of silence, facing the National Mall.
A Marine trumpeter then played "Taps" as the Obamas and staff members placed their hands over their hearts. The Obamas then walked back inside, holding hands.
President Obama planned to visit Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in nearby Bethesda, Md., in the afternoon to spend time with wounded veterans and their families.
Vice President Joe Biden attended a ceremony in Shanksville, Pa., where United Flight 93 crashed into the ground.