Defense Secretary Leon Panetta traveled to New York City to visit the National September 11 Memorial Park and museum on Tuesday. The visit starts a series of events mark the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Panetta, a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, got an early glimpse of the memorial and the museum, which is still under construction.
He was also shown the so-called Survivor Tree, a non-fruit bearing pear three that was rescued from the World Trade Center grounds after the attacks, which stands amid the white oaks near the reflecting pool where the South Tower use to stand.
Dozens of workers scrambled Tuesday morning to put the finishing touches on the memorial, planting ivy as ground cover around the 225 white oak tress that surround the reflecting pools.
After touring the grounds in the rain, Panetta warned that after a decade of war with al-Qaida the potential for another devastating terrorist attack is still possible.
"The potential for that kind of attack remains real," he said.
Panetta had also planned to visit the partially completed memorial in Shanksville, Pa., where hijacked United Flight 93 crashed, but the poor weather forced officials to cancel the trip.
Doug Wilson, Secretary Panetta's spokesman, said Panetta wanted to visit Shanksville and New York City in order to highlight the role the military has played over the past decade in preventing further attacks on the homeland.
Panetta will mark the 10th anniversary of the attacks by attending memorial events at the Pentagon on Sunday.
The September 11 attacks killed nearly 3,000 people, including 184 at the Pentagon. The names of every person who died in the attacks, including the Pentagon and Shanksville, are inscribed into bronze panels that edge the reflecting pools at the twin towers site.
With the Associated Press.