What is Donald Trump Doing For 9/11? He’s Not in New York, for Starters

On the 16th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, native New Yorker Donald Trump won’t be flying back to his hometown to mark the occasion. Instead, he will spend time at the White House and Pentagon.

The first thing the president did Monday was head out to the White House South Lawn with first lady Melania Trump and hold a moment of silence for the nearly 3,000 people who died on 9/11.

The timing of the moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. coincided with the time the first plane hit the World Trade Center.

Administration members, including Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Kellyanne Conway, and H.R. McMaster, joined them as a bell tolled and the first couple stood between the two wings of the crowd and bowed their heads in silence. 

RTX3FKW8 President Donald Trump will mark the 16th anniversary of the September 11 attacks at the White House and Pentagon on Monday. Yuri Gripas/Reuters

During the attack, hijacked planes flew into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and another smashed into a field in Pennsylvania after passengers tried to storm the cockpit.

By about 9:35 a.m. Monday, the president and first lady arrived at the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial for an observance there and to pay their respects at a Pentagon ceremony with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“Though we can never erase your pain, or bring back those you lost, we can honor their sacrifice by pledging our resolve to do whatever we must to keep our people safe,” Trump told survivors of the attacks at the Pentagon.

The president regularly talks about the September 11 attacks and the deep scars the event has left on the country.

When he revealed his strategy for Afghanistan in August, Trump reminded Americans that “9/11, the worst terrorist attack in our history, was planned and directed from Afghanistan because that country was ruled by a government that gave comfort and shelter to terrorists.”

Related: Watch: Long Island memorial for 9/11 first responders killed by toxic exposure

He said that “a hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum that terrorists, including ISIS and Al-Qaeda, would instantly fill, just as happened before September 11.”

Experts and members of Trump’s own party have questioned whether this strategy will bring an end to the 16-year conflict.

America’s “war on terror” was launched in 2001 in response to the 9/11 attacks. The invasion of Afghanistan and the war there and in Iraq killed nearly a half million civilians and thousands of American soldiers.

Trump’s approach as president hasn’t changed much since he spoke to reporters during a newscast on the day of the original attack.

“I guess the big thing that you really will have to do is never forget. You just can’t forget that something like this happened,” Trump, then a real estate magnate, told New York’s Fox 5 News WWOR-TV.

The year before the attacks, in 2000, Trump ran for president on the Reform Party ticket under campaign director Roger Stone.

Trump said, “I would be taking a very tough line” when asked during the interview what he would do in retaliation to the September 11 attacks if he was president.

“Most people feel approximately the group of people that did this and where they are,” he said. “Boy, would you have to take a hard line on this. This just can’t be tolerated, and it’s going to be very, very stern.”

“This was probably worse than Pearl Harbor,” he added.

Trump has also used the attacks to spread false information about immigrants in the United States.

“There were people over in New Jersey that were watching it, a heavy Arab population, that were cheering as the buildings came down. Not good,” Trump said during an interview on ABC News’s This Week while campaigning for the Republican nomination in 2015. In another interview, he said there were “thousands and thousands of people” celebrating.

There is no evidence to corroborate Trump’s suggestion of mass celebrations by Muslims or anyone else.

Last year, President Barack Obama marked the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in New York. “Groups like Al-Qaeda, like ISIL, know that...they will never be able to defeat a nation as great and as strong as America,” he said. “So, instead, they’ve tried to terrorize in the hopes that they can stoke enough fear that we turn on each other and that we change who we are or how we live.

“That’s why it is so important today that we reaffirm our character as a nation—a people drawn from every corner of the world, every color, every religion, every background—bound by a creed as old as our founding,” Obama urged.

Other members of the Trump administration will also be marking the event on Monday. Vice President Mike Pence will represent the administration at an observance at the 9/11 memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into a field.

Ground was broken at the site this past weekend to erect a 93-foot tall memorial to the plane’s 33 passengers and seven crew members who died in the crash.

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