As the United States marks the 17th anniversary of the tragic 9/11 terror attacks, President Donald Trump has been condemned as insensitive for his greeting to supporters ahead of a key memorial service.
Mr Trump grinned and made a double fist pump as he arrived in Pennsylvania with first lady Melania Trump on Tuesday night (AEST) to pay respects to those killed on United Airlines Flight 93 in 2001.
The flight crashed at Shanksville, Pennsylvania after passengers and flight crew thwarted a hijacking attempt by a group of terrorists who planned to use the plane as a weapon.
Almost 3000 people died on September 11, 2001, when three other planes were flown into New York’s World Trade Centre and the Pentagon in an attack planned by al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
Footage of Mr Trump’s jubilant reaction to onlookers was instantly shared by reporters and widely condemned on social media.
WATCH: President Trump greets supporters upon arrival in Johnstown, Penn., while en route to Shanksville to honor those who died aboard United Airlines Flight 93 when it crashed 17 years ago today during the 9/11 attacks. https://t.co/TI1qXHQQNO pic.twitter.com/Uum9rmdV9j
— NBC News (@NBCNews) September 11, 2018
In a statement ahead of Mr Trump’s speech, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the President’s focus for the day was “remembering the lives that were lost, and certainly honouring the individuals who were not only lost that day, but also put their lives on the line to help in that process”.
While on his way to the memorial service, the President tweeted: “17 years since September 11th!”.
He also posted praise for his private lawyer Rudy Giulani who he said did a “great job” as mayor of New York City during the attacks 17 years ago.
Mr Trump observed the anniversary for the first time as President last year at the White House.
In 2001, hours after two planes were flown into New York’s twin towers, Mr Trump gave an interview boasting that his building at 40 Wall Street had just become the tallest in lower Manhattan.
During the interview with radio station WWOR, Mr Trump said that his tower “actually was the second-tallest building in downtown Manhattan, and it was actually – before the World Trade Centre – was the tallest”.
“And then, when they built the World Trade Centre, it became known as the second-tallest. And now it’s the tallest,” he said at the time.
US services commemorating the 9/11 attacks began at the World Trade Centre site in New York with a moment of silence and the tolling bells.
Victims’ relatives, survivors, rescuers and dignitaries gathered on the memorial plaza where the twin towers once stood for the ceremony at 8.46am local time, the same time that a hijacked plane slammed into the World Trade Centre’s north tower.
Vice President Mike Pence attended a ceremony at the Pentagon.