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Tuesday September 19th, 2017 7:51AM

Trump and first lady commemorate Sept. 11 anniversary

By The Associated Press
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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is leading a national moment of silence on the anniversary of the September 11th terror attacks, his first commemoration of the solemn anniversary in office.

Trump and first lady Melania Trump observed a moment of silence at the White House on Monday in remembrance of the nearly 3,000 people who were killed when hijackers flew commercial airplanes into New York's World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

The Trumps bowed their heads and placed their hands over their hearts as "Taps" was played on the South Lawn during the somber ceremony with White House aides and other administration officials.

The morning remembrance was held at 8:46 a.m., the time the first plane struck one of the Twin Towers on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.

Trump and his wife were also paying their respects at a Pentagon ceremony led by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The observances come as the U.S. grapples with the death and destruction caused by two hurricanes in three weeks.

Vice President Mike Pence was representing the administration at an observance at the 9/11 memorial in Shanksville.

A native New Yorker, Trump has a mixed history with 9/11. He frequently uses the terrorist strikes to praise the city's response but also makes unsubstantiated claims about what he did and saw on that day.

Trump often lauds the bravery of New York police officers, firefighters and other emergency responders who rushed to the Twin Towers, in some cases knowing they probably wouldn't make it out alive, as an example of the resilience of the city where he made a name for himself.

But Trump has criticized President George W. Bush's handling of the attacks, accusing his fellow Republican of failing to keep Americans safe.

Trump has also made dubious claims about Sept. 11, particularly saying when talking about Muslims that "thousands of people were cheering" in Jersey City, New Jersey, across the Hudson River from lower Manhattan, as the towers collapsed. There is no evidence in news archives of mass celebrations there by Muslims.

Trump has also said he lost "hundreds of friends" in the attack and that he helped clear rubble afterward. Trump has not provided the names of those he knew who perished in the attack, but has mentioned knowing a Catholic priest who died while serving as a chaplain to the city's fire department.

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Associated Press writers Ken Thomas and Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report.

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Follow Darlene Superville on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dsupervilleap

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