WASHINGTON (AP) — Summoning the nation to unity and service, President Barack Obama paid tribute to America's resilience and the sacrifice of its war dead Saturday as the country prepared to mark 10 long years since the horrors of 9/11.
A day before the anniversary commemorations, the president made a pilgrimage to Arlington National Cemetery, strolling with his wife, Michelle, among graves filled with dead from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. And he invoked the common purpose that arose from carnage a decade ago in telling Americans that the nation cannot be broken by terrorism "no matter what comes our way."
Obama also visited a soup kitchen, where he and his family helped prepare trays of gumbo for the needy in the nation's capital, underscoring the call to national service that rang so loudly after the terrorist attacks.
All this as the president and his national security team tracked the latest possible terrorist threat against the country, a tip that al-Qaida might be seeking to detonate a car bomb in New York or Washington. Obama met his senior national security team in the morning to review the latest developments and ensure the nation remains on a heightened state of vigilance during the anniversary commemorations. As of Saturday U.S. intelligence agencies had not found evidence that al-Qaida had sneaked any terrorists into the country to carry out an anniversary attack.
At D.C. Central Kitchen, Obama said projects to serve the community "are part of what the spirit of remembering 9/11's all about — the country being unified and looking out for one another."
In an email to supporters, the president urged others to follow his lead. "With just a small act of service, or a simple act of kindness towards others, you can both honor those we lost and those who serve us still, and help us recapture the spirit of generosity and compassion that followed 9/11," the president wrote.
Earlier, at Arlington, he and his wife held hands with each other and hugged other visitors among rows of white tombstones from the long wars that Obama is winding down after more than 6,000 American troop deaths.
"It's a reminder that our way of life is dependent on the incredible courage, the incredible patriotism of a whole host of people from all across the country, every walk of life, every ethnicity, every religion," the president said in an interview with NBC Nightly News broadcast later Saturday. "It's a somber moment when you think about all these young people who gave their lives so young."