WASHINGTON (Sept. 13, 2010) -- President Barack Obama paid tribute to 9/11 victims during a wreath-laying ceremony at the Pentagon Memorial, Sept. 11, and urged Americans to remain resilient in the face of evil.

Standing alongside Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, the president asked Americans to celebrate the lives of those that perished Sept. 11, 2001.

"It's tempting to dwell on the final moments of the loved ones whose lives were taken so cruelly," Obama said. "Yet these memorials, and your presence today, remind us to remember the fullness of their time on Earth."

The president spoke in front of hundreds of family members that lost mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters on 9/11 and informed them that the American spirit will never falter.

"The perpetrators of this evil act didn't simply attack America; they attacked the very idea of America itself - all that we stand for and represent in the world," Obama said. "And so the highest honor we can pay those we lost ... is to do what our adversaries fear the most - to stay true to who we are, as Americans.

The president referred to al-Qaida as "a sorry band of men which perverts religion," and as cowards who kill the innocent and hide in caves. The terrorist organization will not scare us, exploit our freedoms, spark conflict or demoralize or divide America, he said.

"For our cause is just. Our spirit is strong. Our resolve is unwavering," Obama said. "On this day and the days to come, we choose to stay true to our best selves - as one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

The president also said that America will persevere in Afghanistan and thanked servicemembers that have pledged to protect the country and its people.

"Today, in Afghanistan and beyond, we have gone on the offensive and struck major blows against al-Qaida and its allies," Obama said. "We will do what is necessary to protect our country, and we honor all those who serve to keep us safe."

The president was able to talk with a number of family members that gathered outside the Pentagon, and they echoed his sentiments.

"We're here today to celebrate the lives that were lost," said Jim Laychak, Pentagon Memorial fund manager.

Laychak lost his brother, David, when terrorists attacked the Pentagon nine years ago, but said he chooses not to remember the death and destruction.

"The memorial is what I remember," Laychak said. "It's not sadness; it's a celebration of a loved one's life."