Mark Lennihan  /  AP
The National September 11 Memorial and Museum, seen under construction on Tuesday, at the World Trade Center site in New York.
NBC News and news services
updated 5/4/2011 6:08:13 PM ET 2011-05-04T22:08:13

President Barack Obama will participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at Ground Zero and meet with 9/11 families and first responders when he visits Thursday.

The White House provided the new details on the trip in a statement Wednesday.

Following the killing of Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, Obama plans to mark the occasion by visiting the most famous site of bin Laden's destruction.

The White House says Obama's trip will include a private meeting with family members of 9/11 victims, a meeting with first responders that will be open to some news coverage, and a wreath-laying at the 9/11 memorial.  

Obama invited former President George W. Bush to accompany him, but Bush declined.

"President Bush will not be in attendance on Thursday," The New York Times quoted his spokesman David Sherzer as saying. "He appreciated the invite, but has chosen in his post-presidency to remain largely out of the spotlight. He continues to celebrate with Americans this important victory in the war on terror."

Bush, whose presidency was defined by the al-Qaida-led Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, has largely maintained a low public profile since leaving office.

Bush plans to mark the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 at ground zero in September, NBC reported.

Flag-waving crowds have been gathering at the lower Manhattan site of the attack since Obama announced bin Laden's death late Sunday.

U.S. forces killed bin Laden during a raid on a compound in Pakistan where he had been hiding, then buried him at sea.

'Momentous achievement'
The former president did congratulate Obama in the immediate aftermath of bin Laden's death.

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"This momentous achievement marks a victory for America, for people who seek peace around the world, and for all those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001," he said in a statement.

In contrast to Bush, former vice president Dick Cheney has openly criticized the Obama administration. However, Cheney also congratulated Obama after the bin Laden news was released, saying it was a "good day for the administration."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Tuesday that Obama also would be in New York for the 10th anniversary, at the formal opening of the national memorial to the nearly 3,000 people who died in the terrorist attacks.

"I certainly think it's terribly important for him to come on 9/11/11. And he will be there. At least the staff has told me that he will come," Bloomberg said at an unrelated City Hall news conference. "It's a very emotional moment in the country now. And I think it's perfectly appropriate for him to come."

The Democratic president visited the World Trade Center site along with Republican Sen. John McCain on the seventh anniversary of the attacks, when both men were vying for office. Since then, Obama has marked the anniversary each year at the Pentagon, while Vice President Joe Biden has attended ceremonies at ground zero.

This article contains reporting by NBC News' Savannah Guthrie, The New York Times, Reuters and The Associated Press.

Video: Bloomberg: We must remain vigilant

  1. Closed captioning of: Bloomberg: We must remain vigilant

    >> michael blumberg is the mayor of new york city . nice to see you. should the photo be released?

    >> up to the federal government . it's tricky because you can inflame people and others want to see it.

    >> except you are the mayor of the city that took the hardest hit on 9/11. do you think it would cause more problems for the people of new york in particular if the photo is released?

    >> we'll deal with the security issues. the most secure place in the world is the world trade center site . we have ramped up security which we do when there is an event that may inflame people. this is not an easy call for the president. there is no one right answer. no matter what, half the people won't be happy. the most important thing is osama bin laden is no longer there and terrorism is still a threat.

    >> when you saw the celebrations in the streets at ground zero and other places around the country, there was not only a reason for joy. there were mixed emotions, especially among the family members of the victims of 9/11 here in new york city . what do you think it meant for this city in particular to have him killed?

    >> i got a call from homeland security secretary janet napolitano around 10:15 at night. my first thought was 3,000 people died at ground zero at the world trade center site and in washington and pennsylvania. our freedoms were threatened. we spent an enormous amount of money on security that we could spend on helping people caused by one man, caused by a lot of people. what a terrible chain of events.

    >> the definition of a nanosecond could be described as the amount of time between a lot of people hearing the news of bin laden 's death and the time when they first started to think, what about al qaeda avenging his death and what will we see in terms of violence? what was the first thing you did as mayor and the police commissioner did when you heard the news?

    >> we kept the police officers that were on duty, we kept their shift going so we had more boots on the ground right away. we tried to get more information. but the bottom line is the threat is from lots of terrorists. obama understands that. al qaeda is a network, not a direct command organization, from what i understand. there are people that don't like the fact that you and i can pray where and how we want to pray, don't like we can say what we want to say, don't like that we are in control of our own destiny. that's going away. the danger is let's get on with this. we don't want to do what we did in 1993 which was forget the lesson or i hope what's not happened since september 11th . in fact, the world trade center memorial yesterday where i was looking down on it is designed partly for a place for the families to grieve but most importantly for us to keep telling our children and grandchildren, your freedoms will be threatened.

    >> the president got a standing ovation at the white house . he said, this moment as brought us together, and he called on members of congress to, quote, harvest that unity. is this a moment of unity that will be forgot and we'll get back to the political divide?

    >> we have such a short attention span .. if you don't remember history, you're destined to repeat it. we are destined to let our guard down unless we work very hard. we have to build a strong democracy so people around the world know we are the model. we have done a good job at that. i'm looking forward to the future. if you go to the world trade center site , enormous amount of reducti construction. that's a symbol that america with stood the strongest attack on its shores and came out stronger than ever.

    >> you will be with the president tomorrow at ground zero . for a short time you will have his ear. what do you want to convey to the president?

    >> we still have the same battles, mr. president. you have to make sure we invest in education, in defense and we have a budget that we can afford, that we lead and we work together and we protect every other group's rights. if we want our freedoms, we have to protect other people's freedoms.

    >> mr. mayor, good to have you here.

    >> thank you, matt.


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