At the annual Pentagon 9/11 memorial ceremony Wednesday, President Donald Trump recalled his own reactions to the collapse of the World Trade Center towers and a later visit to "Ground Zero," where he said his employees went to help.
"I vividly remember when I first heard the news," Trump said in opening remarks to his Pentagon audience, including members of the families of the 184 who were killed when a hijacked airliner hit the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.
"I was sitting at home [at Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan] watching a major business television show early that morning" when the news anchor cut away, he said.
"At first, there were different reports -- it was a boiler fire, but I knew that boilers aren't at the top of a building," he said. "It was a kitchen explosion in Windows on the World [a restaurant atop one of the towers]. Nobody really knew what happened. There was great confusion."
"I was looking out of a window from a building in Midtown Manhattan, directly at the World Trade Center, when I saw a second plane, at a tremendous speed, go into the second tower," Trump said. "It was then that I realized the world was going to change. It was no longer going to be -- and it could never, ever be -- that innocent place that I thought it was.
"Soon after, I went down to Ground Zero with men who worked for me to try to help in any little way that we could," he said. "We were not alone. So many others were scattered around trying to do the same. They were all trying to help."
He has spoken previously of sending his employees to work at the "Pile," most recently at a White House Rose Garden ceremony in July with New York City firefighters and police to sign a 9/11 victims' compensation fund bill.
"I was down there also," Trump said at the July ceremony. "But I'm not considering myself a first responder. But I was down there. I spent a lot of time down there with you."
Trump was in the general area of Ground Zero on Sept. 13, 2001. Interviews he gave that day to NBC and a German TV outlet show him in a suit and tie a few blocks from where the towers came down.
In the NBC interview, he said, "I have hundreds of men inside working right now, and we're bringing down another 125 in a little while, and they've never done work like this before."
According to PolitiFact, owned by the nonprofit Poynter Institute for Media Studies, "It is correct that Trump was at least near the site two days after the attacks, but whether he paid hundreds of workers to help in search-and-rescue efforts is less clear.
"Because we don't have enough information, we don't feel we can make a ruling," PolitiFact said in a March posting.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.
Read more: September 11 Remembrance Center