September 11, 2001 forever changed all of our lives here today and the lives of all Americans.
Just as December 7, 1941 – Pearl Harbor Day – changed the lives of our parents and grandparents. Pearl Harbor taught us that most valuable lesson – the importance of always being prepared to defend our freedom.
The events of 9/11 are indelibly etched in our memories. We shall never forget the images of planes flying into the World Trade Center or the smoke rising from the Pentagon. We shall never forget the courage and compassion of men and women racing into burning buildings to save the innocent or those heroes who died in a Pennsylvania field.
On that fateful day 15 years ago, a total of 2,977 people were killed: 2,753 in New York City, 184 people lost their lives at the Pentagon and 40 passengers and crew members were killed when their plane crashed outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
These attacks were orchestrated by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. An organization of terrorists, not operating under the flag of any one nation, attacked thousands of unsuspecting innocent men and women. These victims were our husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, friends and neighbors, doing nothing out of the ordinary on that clear and sunny Tuesday morning.
There are many who were on watch, in the military, at the police station, the firehouse, the ambulance, elsewhere. And I know it was a tremendous sense of duty, something that at one time was perhaps hard for many Americans to comprehend, that sent those heroes into the crumbling World Trade Center, into the burning wedge of the Pentagon, and into the face of the terrorists on that airplane.
That fateful day, our very way of life was attacked. Our way of life that embraces liberty, freedom and democracy. Our way of life that rewards hard work, selflessness, and generosity. Our way of life that allows us to worship freely, look differently, and express our opinions openly.
One of the worst days in America’s history saw some of the bravest acts in American’s history. We will always honor the heroes of 9/11. As then Mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani said “The attacks of 9/11 were intended to break our spirit. Instead we have emerged stronger and more unified.”
So here today, we remember and honor all those who lost their lives, those who were injured and those who continue to suffer from their injuries on that fateful day of September 11th 2001. After the attacks, on December 18, 2011, Congress approved a measure to allow the president to designate September 11th as “Patriot Day” on each anniversary of the attacks.
No words, no ceremony, no plaques or stones – no amount of tears – will ever replace the loss of life on 9/11. However, this ceremony today provides us all with a solemn moment to reflect, each in our own way.
The Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) is a metaphor of war referring to the international military campaign that started after the September 11 attacks on the United States. Since these attacks, more than 2 million Americans have been deployed overseas. Many of you here today have served your country during multiple deployments in many different countries.
Tens of thousands of young men and women who grew up in the shadow of 9/11, have enlisted in the military, often too young to remember the world before it. 9/11 changed their mindset, it changed something inside of them. It made them want to fight for their country. Everyone’s reason for joining the military varies, but we all quickly assimilate to our culture of selfless service.
President Franklin Roosevelt said "Freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved." Humbly add to that maintained. Sept. 11th clearly showed us there are those who would be happy to take it from us.
We Americans are uniquely positioned, diplomatically, economically, militarily and morally to lead the fight against the scourge of terrorism and to be the proponent of human freedoms. I think we not only have the opportunity, but we have the responsibility.
Today, millions of people from nations around the world stand united behind one ideal – that the destructive agendas of radicals shall never eclipse the light of liberty.
Though enemies of freedom hide throughout the world, every day we and our allies remove more of them from the innocent populations they infest.
We stand on the front lines of our defense, but we do not stand alone. Our international partners here with us today stand beside us. And the American public stands behind us. But yes, there is much, much more work to do still.
Our American spirit is defined by our ability to work together -- stronger and more united in purpose – and our brief history as a nation on this Earth is testimony to that.
Even the smallest act of service, the simplest act of kindness, is a way to honor those we lost, as way to reclaim that spirit of unity that followed 9/11.
We must never forget the legacy of that September day – a world drawn together in the common cause of freedom and our renewed devotion to it.
Thank you for the honor of addressing you today. May God continue to bless the United States of America.