On 18th Anniversary of 9/11 Attacks, Trump Pledges to 'Hit Our Enemy Harder'

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump participate in a moment of silence honoring the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019, at the Pentagon. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump participate in a moment of silence honoring the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019, at the Pentagon. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

During a ceremony in honor of 184 killed at the Pentagon 18 years ago on Sept. 11, 2001, President Donald Trump pledged to continue to prosecute America’s longest war, and ramp up efforts to erase terror threats against the homeland.

Trump said he called off plans for secret peace talks with the Taliban at Camp David, Maryland last Sunday when he learned that a Taliban-claimed suicide attack had killed 12 in Kabul, including a U.S. service member.

"They thought they could use the attack to show strength, but actually what they showed is weakness," Trump said.

"The last four days we have hit our enemy harder than they have ever been hit before, and that will continue," he added.

Related: September 11 Remembrance Center

The president campaigned on a pledge to end the war in Afghanistan, but has pronounced the peace talks with the Taliban as now "dead."

"And if for any reason they come back to our country, we will go wherever they are and use power the likes of which has never been used before, and I'm not even talking about nuclear power -- they will never have seen anything like what will happen to them," Trump said to applause.

Trump was joined by First Lady Melania Trump at the ceremony, during which a Navy bell tolled 184 times as the names were read off of the 184 who lost their lives lost when American Flight 77 slammed into the building's west front at 530 mph on Sept. 11, 2001.

Many families of those killed at the Pentagon attended the annual ceremony, as they have since 9/11, and Trump gave them "our eternal pledge that your loved ones will never ever be forgotten."

Trump also praised the members of the military, Pentagon civilians, and first responders who braved the flames and smoke that spread down the Pentagon corridors following the crash to rescue survivors.

They set the example, Trump said, for all Americans "today and every day to treasure our liberty, to live up to our values, to prove ourselves worthy to our heroes, to never ever forget."

Before coming to the Pentagon the president and first lady observed a moment of silence on the south lawn of the White House for the nearly 3,000 killed on 9/11 in lower Manhattan, at Shanksville, Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon.

At the Pentagon, where a huge U.S. flag was draped over the west front as it was days after the attacks, Maj. Gen. Steven Schaick, the Air Force chief of chaplains, began the ceremony with a prayer: "Do not, we pray, let our hope be overtaken by anger. Do not, we pray, let our hearts be flooded by despair."

In his remarks, Joint Chiefs Chairman Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, a former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan who is expected to retire this fall, said the attacks of 9/11 carried out by al-Qaida aircraft hijackers were "intended to challenge our way of life and they sought to break our spirit."

"But their purpose was never realized," Dunford said. "That day made us stronger, more determined to protect our nation and that for which it stands."

Defense Secretary Mark Esper, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who took office in July, said of the 9/11 attacks that "our enemies sought to dim the beacon of hope that American has long been throughout the world. But the American people responded with even greater bravery and determination."

To the families of those killed in the attacks, "we offer you all that we have, our unwavering loyalty, our undying devotion," Trump said.

"For every American who lived through that day, the September 11th attack is seared into our soul. It was a day filled with shock, horror, sorrow and righteous fury."

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at richard.sisk@military.com.

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