(SHANKSVILLE, Pa.) — While Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to deliver a speech Tuesday at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa., Secretary of State Leon Panetta offered his own tribute Monday at the crash site where 40 passengers and crew members fought valiantly against al Qaeda hijackers on Sept. 11, 2001.
It is believed that the hijackers had planned to crash the plane into either the White House or the Capitol but were thwarted when those aboard Flight 93 refused to allow the terrorists to carry out their mission.
Panetta, who was making his first visit to the memorial in Shanksville, said the crash site was “hallowed ground because this is the final resting place of American patriots.”
The defense chief suggested that the 40 on board Flight 93 were among the first casualties of a new war, adding, “We honor those and all of those who have fought and died for this country who made the ultimate sacrifice to defend the United States of America.”
Although al Qaeda appears to be less potent than it was 11 years ago, especially following the death of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, Panetta warned that the group remains a threat and that the U.S. will remain vigilant in stopping the movement whether it’s here or overseas.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Erin McClam, CNN
Matt McFarland, CNN
Julia Horowitz, CNN
Eliza Mackintosh, CNN