Ten years have passed since the tragic terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Today, millions will gather to remember and honor those whose lives were lost that fateful day. Ceremonies at the Pentagon, near the site of the World Trade Center in New York, in Pennsylvania, and at hundreds of other places around the world are being held at this very moment. Just as we were united in the hours and days following the September 11 attacks, we are again drawn together in solidarity to remember those who were lost. And today we also honor the men and women, in and out of uniform, who continue to fight against those who would harm us for no other reason than our great country, the United States of America, remains a beacon of freedom in an increasingly dark and chaotic world.
With their blows to the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, Al Qaeda sought to overturn the world’s most powerful symbols of military strength and economic prosperity. They impacted our sense of safety, making it hard to trust the man or woman standing next to us. Some of us are still suspicious of strangers and many of us are still looking over our shoulders. Rebuilding trust certainly takes time. But they did not accomplish their goals. They did not cripple the far reaching capabilities or the effectiveness of our military and our collective resilience as a nation. Look around you. Take note of your brothers and sisters. This is your American family. We stand together against those who would attack our freedoms and our way of life. But they can’t keep us down.
Not long after the attack, family members who lost loved ones during the terrorist strike at the Pentagon created a makeshift memorial outside the damaged building. There were memorials at the site of the World Trade Center and the field in Pennsylvania. We are resilient, persistent and determined; all of which I would dare to say are inherent American attributes. These people did not wait for an official call to action. They made it happen. Fast-forward ten years. Where are we now? We continue to grieve, but we also continue to fight the war on terrorism. They wanted to make us weak, but they only made us stronger.
United in strength and camaraderie, we grieve for the 3,000 innocent people who perished in those dastardly attacks against our nation. They came from all walks of life, all races, and all ages. And while most of those who perished were U.S. citizens, we must not forget that the victims at the World Trade Center included citizens of dozens of other nations. Terrorism threatens the entire global community, not just the United States.
Again, I propose that the terrorists failed in weakening our great nation. In fact, the attacks produced new American heroes, such as the passengers of United Airlines Flight 93. The plane was hijacked the same way the passenger airliners flown into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were, however, the passengers were united under the resolve that their airliner would not be used as another guided missile – and it wasn’t.
Additionally, America has newfound heroes in the hundreds of New York City policemen, firefighters, paramedics and other emergency responders who gave their all when the World Trade Center towers collapsed around them as they fought to get everyone out.
A little more than a week after the attacks, President George W. Bush told us that "We are a country awakened to danger and called to defend freedom. Our grief has turned to anger, and anger to resolution. Whether we bring our enemies to justice, or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done."
And justice has been done. Working closely with the armed forces of other nations, our military campaigns have eliminated al Qaeda’s safe haven in Afghanistan and the Taliban government that supported them. Osama Bin Laden has been brought to justice, and our military service members continue to deliver justice every single day as they hunt down remaining fugitives throughout Afghanistan, even as they help the liberated Afghan people embrace freedom and democracy.
We have met many milestones during these past ten years and during the war against terror. We have a way to go, but as we speak, the numbers of American troops are drawing down. Eventually this war will end. Life will never be what it was before the attacks, but what has not eliminated us only educated us and made us stronger.
Soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen are fighting the Global War on Terrorism, in an effort to create and maintain the conditions for peace. Every day they sacrifice to protect and defend our homeland, and our freedoms.
We will never forget September 11th, 2001 as one of America’s darkest days. But a renewed sense of national pride has arisen out of the gloom. A national resolve to make this world a safer place now shines brightly. Our unwavering strength and resolve is a wonder for the world to behold. We stand united. America will remember her heroes who emerged from the tragedies of those attacks, and we will fight the good fight against a global network of terrorism for as long as it takes to end its threat to our way of life.