FORT MEADE, Md., Sept. 11, 2015 —
On the 14th anniversary of 9/11, President Barack Obama, in gratitude for military members who’ve served after the nation’s darkest day, hosted a global, multimedia, Worldwide Troop Talk live from Defense Media Activity studios here.
The first sitting president in history to conduct a troop talk of this scope, Obama told service members who attended the event and those who asked questions via Facebook, Twitter, Skype and satellite that today was “particularly appropriate” to address them directly.
“When I look out in this audience and when I think about all the members of the armed services all around the world who serve -- this represents America,” Obama said. “You’ve got people of every race, religion, faith, every region of the country, but what we share is a common creed, a common commitment to freedom … a common belief that America is an indispensable force for good around the world.”
The president described the military as a “linchpin” in the nation’s ability to project its values, diplomatic efforts and relations, and thanked service members who he said have kept the United States safe and free since 9/11.
When a Twitter user asked the president about his personal experiences on Sept. 11, 2001, he spoke candidly of his memories that day.
The president recalled that 9/11 was his eldest daughter Malia’s first day of kindergarten and his younger daughter Sasha was only a few months old.
While Michelle, Sasha in tow, had gone to drop Malia off at school, Obama, then a state senator, was en route to downtown Chicago for a hearing.
“I remember driving on Lakeshore Drive … and hearing the reports of a plane crashing into the buildings,” he said. “At first the reports were unclear so you thought it was a Cessna or some accident that happened.”
It wasn’t until he arrived downtown that he realized the event was of a more serious and sinister nature, but he said he could not be certain if the attack was ongoing or not.
“The building was evacuated and I remember standing … with thousands of other people,” he said. “There were a lot of targets obviously for possible action, including at the time what was called the Sears Tower.”
Obama said it wasn’t until people saw grave images of the planes’ fiery collisions with the towers and their imminent collapse that reality set in. “That evening, I have very vivid memories of giving Sasha a bottle and rocking her to sleep while we were watching the aftermath of those attacks.”
The event, he said, forever changed his perspective and inspired him and many others to remember how precious the nation is and to defend it any cost.
“It gave you a sense, for the first time in my lifetime, that our homeland could be vulnerable in that way,” the president said somberly. “We hadn’t seen an attack like that since Pearl Harbor.”
While Obama acknowledged differences in the previous administration’s military strategy in response to 9/11, he credited then-President George W. Bush for his presence.
“I remember and give great credit to President Bush for being at the site, throwing out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium, and everyone remembering that you’re not a Democrat first or a Republican first or a Texan first or Californian first, you’re an American,” he said. “What binds us together is much more important than anything that divides us.”
Obama made special mention of military members, many who are away from family, serving overseas and who he said amplify the shared set of commitments in defending the nation. “I don’t have a greater honor than serving as your commander in chief,” he said. “Every single day, I see the extraordinary work that you do and I benefit from it as well.”
(Follow Amaani Lyle on Twitter: @LyleDODNews)