From the White House to Capitol Hill to the Pentagon -- and at countless ceremonies around the country -- Wednesday brought a solemn step back from the frenetic campaign for U.S. military action in Syria and an acknowledgment of the terrorist attacks that shook the entire nation to its core 12 years ago today.
President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden, along with members of their staffs, began the day by marking the anniversary of the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, first with a moment of silence on the South Lawn of the White House and then, for the president, a wreath-laying ceremony and speech at the Pentagon Memorial.
Speaking to a crowd of dignitaries and families of Sept. 11 victims, Obama declared the anniversary a moment for prayer, public service and thanksgiving, especially for the survivors who have "taught us all there's no trouble we cannot endure and there's no calamity we cannot overcome."
"Even more than memorials of stone and water, your lives are the greatest tribute to those that we lost, for their legacy shines on in you," Obama said. "When you smile just like him, when you toss your hair just like her, when you foster scholarships and service projects that bear the name of those we lost and make a better world; when you join the firehouse or you put on the uniform or you devote yourself to a cause greater than yourself, just like they did, that's a testimony to them."
Elsewhere in Washington, lawmakers -- many with small American flags tucked into the pockets of their suit jackets -- filed onto the steps of the U.S. Capitol in the late summer heat to honor the victims of the Sep. 11 attacks.
With hundreds of members of Congress packing the Capitol steps before a somber crowd of tourists, staffers and journalists, Congressional leaders evoked the memories of those killed in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pa.
"The word 'weary' has been used a great deal of late. But if you think about the men and women we honor at this hour, the fear that they endured and cast off, the love that they wished to be remembered for, the instinct to lock arms and to help the person next to them, the bravery it took to run up the stairwells and charge that cockpit, the prayers that they whispered together, the last word that comes to mind is the word 'weary,'" House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said. "Yes, we've been through the crucible, and we live in a dangerous world. But from the fallen and from all who have sacrificed so that we may live free, we can take heart that ours is the greatest cause and the work before us is not above our capacity or beyond our strength. After all, we are Americans."
On Wednesday, President Obama also paid tribute to the four victims of the assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, exactly one year ago.
"We pray for all those who've stepped forward in those years of war, diplomats who serve in dangerous posts, as we saw this day last year in Benghazi," Obama said, "intelligence professionals, often unseen and unheralded, who protect us in every way, our men and women in uniform who defend this country that we love."
On Sept. 11, 2012, insurgents with ties to al Qaeda killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods. None of the assailants have been arrested or brought to justice.