President Donald Trump greets the crowd as he arrives at the Johnstown-Cambria County Airport on his way to the United 93 memorial on Sept. 11, 2018. (Getty Images)

On the 17th anniversary of 9/11, President Donald Trump visited the United 93 memorial in Shanksville, Penn. and delivered remarks honoring those who lost their lives that day.

 

"On Sept. 11, 2001, a band of brave patriots turned the tide on our nations' enemies and joined the immortal ranks of our nations' heroes," Trump said. "At this memorial on this sacred earth, on the field behind this wall, and in the skies above our heads, we remember the moment when America fought back."

 

Thousands were killed in New York City when two planes hit the Twin Towers as part of a terrorist plot, and hundreds more were injured in the ensuing collapse and years of sickness due to toxic materials released into the air that day. Hundreds were killed and injured in Washington D.C. when a third plane hit the Pentagon.

 

But the fourth hijacked plane, United 93, which was believed to be headed for the White House, never made it to its destination. That's thanks to the 40 crew members and passengers – ordinary men and women who learned after calling 911 from their cell phones that the hijackers had used other planes to attack the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Realizing their plane was going to be turned into a weapon, the crew and passengers took a vote, then decided to storm the cockpit.

 

"They boarded the plane as strangers, and they entered eternity linked forever as true heroes," Trump said. "They attacked the enemy. They fought until the very end, and they stopped the forces of terror and defeated this wicked, horrible, evil plan. ... Through their sacrifice, the 40 saved the lives of countless Americans, and they saved our Capitol from a devastating strike."

Passenger Todd Beamer's rallying cry of "Let's roll!" heard by a 911 dispatcher he had called on his cell phone, was heard just minutes before the plane crashed into an empty grassy field in Pennsylvania. It is believed the hijackers crashed the plane as the passengers and crew swarmed the cockpit.

"This field is now a monument to American defiance. This memorial is now a message to the world – America will never, ever submit to tyranny," Trump said. "A piece of America's heart is buried on these grounds, but in its place has grown a new resolve to live our lives with the same grace as the heroes of flight 93."

Related: New Shanksville memorial remembers 9/11 heroes who died fighting back

Architect Paul Murdoch, who designed the recently-completed Tower of Voices at Shanksville, the final component of the memorial, participated in a reading of the names of the dead along with the surviving family of the United 93 victims.

The new Tower of Voices memorial at Shanksville.

Trump pays tribute to United 93

The story of United 93 touched Trump. The plane, which took off from Newark, NJ and was bound for San Francisco, was hijacked as it crossed the border from Pennsylvania to Ohio and turned around somewhere over Ohio, redirected toward Washington D.C.

The passengers' revolt began around 9:57 a.m. The plane crashed minutes later, at 10:03 a.m., flying at a speed of 563 miles per hour into the field in Shanksville, Pa. At the time, the plane was just 20 minutes of flight time away from Washington D.C.

"Please know that I am still in awe of them," said former Pa. Gov. Mark Schweiker, who became governor after 9/11, as former Gov. Tom Ridge went to Washington D.C. to head up the newly created Department of Homeland Security. "It was here that freedom took its first stand. ... It has been 6,502 days since they defeated terror in the skies above."

Today, a 2,200-acre park around the crash site has been turned into a permanent memorial, with a wall bearing the names of the United 93 victims, visitors and educational facilities, and footpaths around the site. There are flower beds and trees that have been newly planted at the site, and a special, private, families-only site, where original pieces of the wreckage of United 93 are buried.

"We all hope that, faced with a similar situation, we might make the same choice," said Gov. Tom Wolf. "The people on that flight were truly special. They were truly heroes."