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Honoring 'The America That We Must Remain True To' On Sept. 11

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

In New York City this morning, family members honored the 2,983 people killed on September 11 and those who died in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Gerry D'Amadeo opened the annual reading of the names by remembering his father Vincent who worked in the north tower.

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GERRY D'AMADEO: I was 10 years old. My brothers were 8, 7 and 5. Today, I'm proud to be here to memorialize my father. This is a place that gives me a chance to think about beautiful memories.

MARTIN: Family members continue to remember their loved ones throughout the morning.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Ronnie E. Gies.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Andrew Clive Gilbert.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: And my big brother, Joseph M. Giaccone. He was only 43 years old. Fifteen years are like 15 seconds. The hurt is still there. The hole is still there.

MARTIN: As the reading of the names continued at the World Trade Center, memorials took place around the country. In Shanksville, Pa., and at the Pentagon, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford spoke to the families at the Pentagon memorial.

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JOSEPH DUNFORD: If today and in the years ahead, recalling the memories of 9/11 leaves us with a renewed sense of commitment to our values, if today's gathering reminds us of how important it remains to defend those values, then those who were taken from us prematurely will be able to look down and know that their lives had meaning. And they'll be able to take pride in how we are carrying on their legacy.

MARTIN: President Obama spoke of the evolving threat of terrorism. He said we honor this day by protecting not only our country, but also our ideals.

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PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It is so important today that we reaffirm our character as a nation. People draw in from every corner of the world, every color, every religion, every background bound by a creed as old as our founding. E pluribus unum - out of many we are one. For we know that our diversity, our patchwork heritage is not a weakness. It is still and always will be one of our greatest strengths.

This is the America that was attacked that September morning. This is the America that we must remain true to. Across our country today, Americans are coming together in service and remembrance. We run our fingers over the names and memorial benches here at the Pentagon. We walk the hallowed grounds of a Pennsylvania field. We look up at a gleaming tower that pierces the New York City skyline. But in the end, the most enduring memorial to those we lost is ensuring the America that we continue to be. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.