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9/11 Remembrance Ceromony, Washington, D.C.


SEPTEMBER 11, 2003

For all Americans, for all time, the phrase “nine-eleven” will evoke a special meaning, a memory of a moment in our history when the world as we knew it changed forever. It is fitting, then, that every year on September 11 Americans join together to honor the memory of the more than three thousand people who died that day. And it is fitting that we observe a moment of silence as a tribute to those lives cut short, and as a symbol of the empty places left behind in the hearts of those still living.

But these solemn ceremonies on September 11 will always be more than a remembrance of the past, more than a tribute to the lives lost two years ago. These ceremonies are today, and always will be, a remembrance and a tribute to both the living and the dead.

Today we recall, and we celebrate, what we learned about ourselves on September 11, 2001. We recall, and we celebrate, how we acted that day. We remember once again how ordinary human beings, living their ordinary lives, reacted with extraordinary heroism when – without warning and in an instant – they were thrown face-to-face with the most fundamental questions of human existence.

On September 11, 2001, we saw ordinary people choose duty in the face of death, as the security guards in the Trade Center continued to help people out even as the buildings were collapsing around them. On September 1l, we saw loyalty to friends overwhelm all sense of danger, as the New York City firefighters searched tirelessly for their own. On September 11, 2001, we saw ordinary people choose self-sacrifice for the good of strangers, as the passengers on the plane over Pennsylvania refused to allow the hijackers to succeed. On September 11, 2001, we saw ordinary people choosing to spend their final moments expressing their love to their families. There is a man in New York who has tape-recorded many of those final messages, and he listens to the tape every day because it is such a pure expression of human love.

Americans will be meeting like this every September 11, I am sure, to refresh our national memory of what we learned that day in 2001. Not only that we have enemies in this world who would destroy us if they could. But that the age-old verities – duty, loyalty, self-sacrifice, love – still have meaning, and still flourish in the hearts of the ordinary people we live and work with every day.

So today, as we think back on the events of 9/11 two years ago, our sorrow over the loss of so many good people should be tempered by the example shown by so many who died, and so many who lived. They taught us through their actions that day what it means to be human. They showed us the immutable value of duty, loyalty, self-sacrifice, love. The only way we will triumph over terrorism, and conquer the senseless tragedy of that horrible day, is by celebrating the kindness of the human spirit. Today, as we remember those lost, I ask you to join me in faith that the good will not only endure, they will prevail.