By Les Kretman, NBC News producer
Broken clouds were low over the White House today in marked contrast to the bright blue sky of 9/11--and then the silence.
First, the Marine Band played "America the Beautiful," and then the President and the First Lady along with the Vice President and Mrs. Cheney slowly walked out of the Diplomatic Room, the White House South Portico behind them.Then three chimes marked the moment of silence at exactly 8:46 a.m. Finally, the U.S. Navy Band, "Sea Chanters," sang "God Bless America."
No one talked. No one smiled. Minds were elsewhere. With the First Family were current and former Cabinet members, as well as White House staff aides, secretaries, kitchen workers, many of whom were here on 9/11.
In many ways what happened on 9/11 defined this Bush presidency through its two terms for better and for worse. Many goals the administration set to achieve in 2001 became sublimated as security of this country became the paramount focus of the government. Now there are new rules for plane travel, for immigration, for mailing packages...so many parts of our daily lives have been affected. And then, of course, there's the war in Iraq and our increasing involvement in Afghanistan. We have a Department of Homeland Security now, and various agencies in all levels of state, local and federal government have ramped up the monitoring of our lives.
White House spokesperson Dana Perino summed it up yesterday at her daily briefing: "Tomorrow is obviously a very sober anniversary for Americans...the President thinks about 9/11 every single day. When he wakes up and before he goes to bed, this is what he's concerned about. He's always been concerned about another attack on our country. Thankfully, we haven't had one. But there are terrorists out there, extremists out there who are plotting and planning to attack Americans."
With that in mind, today's White House moment of silence gave the President an opportunity to think about the events of that day in 2001, and the impact they have had on where we are today in 2008.