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ARLINGTON, Va. — At dawn, along the west wall of the Pentagon, an American flag was unfurled over the point of impact to mark the 17th anniversary of the September 11th attacks.
Alongside family and building survivors was Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Paul Selva, as well as other Department of Defense leadership and Queen Elizabeth's youngest son, Prince Edward. President Donald Trump traveled to the site of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, with the First Lady for a memorial service.
Mattis, who recently returned from an unannounced trip to Afghanistan, began his remarks by addressing the family members in attendance.
"To our most honored guests, the families of those we lost, seventeen Septembers ago, let me say to you here in the shadow of our rebuilt Pentagon, we are all part of your larger family," Mattis said. "Though evil visited us on a cloudless Tuesday morning, courage and strength answered amid the fire and smoke in New York City, over a Pennsylvania meadow and in this very building."
At 9:33 am on September 11, 2001, Flight 77, headed to Los Angeles from Dulles International Airport, was hijacked by five terrorists and rerouted toward the Pentagon.
"An aircraft is coming at you and not talking with us," a tower operator at Ronald Reagan National Airport said to agents at the Secret Service Operations Center in Washington. Less than five minutes later, the plane slammed into the side of the Pentagon killing 184 people.
Pence began his remarks by describing the bravery of those in the Pentagon who rushed into the burning building to rescue those trapped inside. "It was the Pentagon's finest hour," Pence said to the crowd of survivors, family members and Defense department employees.
The Vice President reiterated the Trump administration's commitment to rebuilding the U.S. military and noted the recent approval of the National Defense Authorization Act.
Since the September 11 attacks, the collective wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria have cost U.S. taxpayers more than $1.5 trillion, according to a Defense Department report.