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Administrator Johnson: Remembering September 11th

    On September 10, 2001, America slept, unaware of the new reality to which it would awake.

    The next day, “Nine-eleven” became a new phrase forever written into our American lexicon. It became a new phrase that evokes the seemingly incomprehensible horrors of burning skies, pluming smoke, and splintered families.

    But it also became a new phrase that reminds us that regardless of our race, religion or creed, we are all united as one nation - we are all united as Americans.

    The pride that surged from this nation was previously unparalleled in most of our lifetimes. Everywhere you looked there were American Flags – American Flags that served as signs of defiance to an unseen enemy that wished to take away our lives and steal away our freedoms.

    One year later, President Bush marked the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks by declaring that September 11th will forever be remembered as Patriot Day – an enduring, fitting tribute to those who died on that terrible day – as well all who bravely responded to those events with courage and fortitude.

    And just as “Nine-eleven” recalls my pride in being an American, it also recalls my pride in being a part of the team that makes up the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

    The September 11th attacks and the anthrax contamination of government buildings showcased what it truly means to be the world’s experts in the field of protecting human health and the environment.

    We were called on to respond to events unprecedented in scope and horror. We were called on to respond to the American people when they needed us the most.

    With true professionalism, unceasing dedication, and effective action, within minutes of the attacks, EPA personnel were one of the first responders to the scenes at the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania to help safeguard the lives of rescue workers and civilians.

    In the days following the strikes, this Agency began a massive effort to support the cleanup and recovery effort.

    We were there to help America recover.

    Just as we responded to the terror of instantaneous mass destruction, less than a month later, we were again called to respond to the crippling fear of a biological agent spread covertly through the postal system.

    Our world-class knowledge of biological and chemical contaminants coupled with our emergency response and clean-up capabilities, put us in the unique position to lead the effort to remediate the Capitol Hill offices and other facilities around the country affected by anthrax.

    Our teams worked tirelessly over many months to clean up and restore buildings, and to help provide the American citizens the information they needed to protect themselves.

    I was proud then – just as I am proud today – of EPA’s unwavering commitment to America’s health and environmental challenges.

    This Sunday, I urge every one of you to take a moment out of your busy lives, to remember the lives lost and the sacrifices made on that beautiful, clear September morning, four years ago. Whether you attend a public remembrance in your community, or spend a quiet time of reflection in your place of worship – whatever you choose, whatever you do, I hope you contemplate what 9/11 has meant to this country and why hold our freedom so dear.

    For 35 years, EPA has been there when America needed us most. And as all of you know, today America needs us in the Gulf Coast Region. Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath - which evolves by the minute - has destroyed lives, demolished properties, and shattered dreams.

    Responding to one of the biggest and most devastating natural disasters in our nation’s history will take unprecedented coordination with our federal, state and local partners. Coordinating under the direction of the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA, EPA’s responders are on the scene – just as we have been in the past – where we will use our specialized skills to protect lives, guide cleanup, and help restore hope to these ravaged communities. Our hearts and our prayers go out to the victims of this national tragedy.

    I want to thank you all for what you do each and every day to keep America safe and secure. You are on the front lines – responding to the difficult challenges of today – in order to ensure America a bright and healthy future. The United States is grateful for your service, and so am I.

    Thank you, and God bless America.