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Obama Pushes For Unity On 9/11 Anniversary

President Obama, right, first lady Michelle Obama, former President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush arrive at the National September 11 Memorial in New York Sunday. (AP)
President Obama, right, first lady Michelle Obama, former President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush arrive at the National September 11 Memorial in New York Sunday. (AP)

Ten years after the 9/11 attacks, President Obama is marking the anniversary by honoring the dead and urging Americans to recapture the sense of unity kindled then but mostly a flicker now.

Obama, a state senator from Illinois in 2001, must now help lead the nation into a new phase of healing. He has called on Americans this weekend to remember and serve, and to come together toward a joint future.

"Ten years later, I'd say America came through this thing in a way that was consistent with our character," Obama told NBC News. "We've made mistakes. Some things haven't happened as quickly as they needed to. But overall, we took the fight to al-Qaida, we preserved our values, we preserved our character."

Obama was expected to repeat that theme Sunday in remarks at a Kennedy Center memorial concert in the evening, after spending the day visiting all three sites where terrorists crashed planes a decade ago, killing nearly 3,000 people.

The president and first lady Michelle Obama flew to New York City early Sunday to take part in the memorial service at ground zero along with former President George W. Bush and many others.

From there the president planned to stop in Shanksville, Pa., where airline passengers fought back against hijackers and drove a plane into the ground. It was believed the hijackers intended to fly the jet into the White House or the Capitol.

Obama was scheduled to return later to Washington to lay a wreath at the Pentagon and attend the "Concert for Hope" at the Kennedy Center, a ceremony of music and readings intended to offer a sense of renewal.

In the taped interview with NBC, Obama recalled going home after the attacks and rocking his baby daughter, Sasha. "Our first reaction was, and continues to be, just heartbreak for the families involved. The other thing that we all remember is how America came together."

On Saturday, the president stopped at Arlington National Cemetery to visit graves of troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, the two long wars he inherited and is beginning to wind down. He also spent time with his family working at a soup kitchen, and called on other Americans also to participate in a day of service.

Throughout the day, the president and his national security team tracked a tip about a possible attack being planned by al-Qaida for New York or Washington to coincide with the anniversary, but U.S. intelligence did not find evidence that terrorists had been sneaked into the country to carry out such a strike.

This program aired on September 11, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

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