WASHINGTON – President Obama plans to mark the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks by attending a memorial service at the Pentagon, the White House said Tuesday.
In addition, Vice President Biden will attend services at ground zero in New York, while Michelle Obama will be joined by former first lady Laura Bush at the Flight 93 memorial near Shanksville, Pa., Robert Gibbs announced at his daily press briefing.
Obama also spoke at the Pentagon in 2009. The decision to return there this year, rather than to commemorate the anniversary in New York, comes weeks after the president weighed in on the controversial proposal to build an Islamic community center and mosque blocks away from the former site of the World Trade Center.
“The 9/11 attacks were a deeply traumatic event for our country. And the pain and the experience of suffering by those who lost loved ones is just unimaginable,” he said at a White House Iftar dinner, marking the start of Ramadan, on Aug. 13. “But let me be clear. As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country.”
Obama later clarified that he was not commenting on the “wisdom” of the specific plan for the so-called Park51 complex.
A recent Quinnipiac survey of New York voters found that 53 percent of respondents agreed that, because of sensitivities of 9/11 victims’ families, the community center should be built somewhere else; 39 percent disagreed.