The assembled crowd numbered in the hundreds and included leaders of Congress, members of the Cabinet, diplomats, men and women in military uniform and chefs, plumbers, ushers and others who work at the White House. Across the Potomac River, a new memorial at the Pentagon was dedicated as the names of the victims were read aloud to mourners there.
Gordon England, deputy secretary of defense, said at the Pentagon: "Today as we dedicate this memorial, we also dedicate ourselves to never forget what happened here, and we make a solemn pledge to never again let this happen in America."
"God bless the fallen, their families and all who sacrifice for freedom and liberty," England said.
On one side of a Pentagon parking lot, nearly 3,000 flags flew to mark all the lives lost on Sept. 11
Bush also was to go to the Pentagon to dedicate the memorial featuring 184 benches over small reflecting pools, representing each life lost when American Airlines Flight 77 flew into the symbol of U.S. military might on that clear and sunny September morning.
The Pentagon ceremony will include a wreath laying, music and the reading of the names those who perished on American Airlines Flight 77 and inside the building. The Pentagon Memorial was built at a cost of $22 million on a 1.9-acre parcel of land adjacent to the Pentagon and within view of the crash site.
"The president thinks about 9/11 every single day when he wakes up and before he goes to bed," White House press secretary Dana Perino had said Wednesday. "This is what he's concerned about. He's always been concerned about another attack on our country. Thankfully, we haven't had one."
Barack Obama and John McCain, the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees, respectively, will appear together at ground zero in New York on Thursday to honor the memory of those who died. The campaigns agreed to halt television advertising critical of each other for the day.
Bush announced this week that he was sending a Marine battalion to Afghanistan in November and an Army brigade there by January. U.S. commanders in Afghanistan say they need another 10,000 troops - about three times as many as they will receive this winter under the troop deployment plan Bush announced. The commanders also urge more nonmilitary aid and say the Afghan government must perform better.
On the Net:
Pentagon Memorial Fund: http://www.pentagonmemorial.net/
Associated Press reporters Lolita C. Baldor and Matthew Barakat contributed to this story.