Obama: Lives Lost on
9/11 Ushered in Stronger Nation
September 11, 2012
Eleven times, the
nation has marked another Sept. 11 come and gone and paused in
remembrance, reflection, unity and purpose, President Barack Obama said
here today during a service at the Pentagon Memorial.
Joining the president on stage before a somber audience were Defense
Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of
the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Behind them, a large American flag hung from the top of the Pentagon,
draping over the side of the building like the one firefighters and
soldiers unfurled that morning in 2001 during rescue and recovery
efforts after hijackers crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the
“This is never an easy day,” Obama said. “But it is especially difficult
for all of you -- the families of nearly 3,000 innocents who lost their
lives -- your mothers and fathers, your husbands and wives, your sons
and your daughters. They were taken from us suddenly and far too soon.”
The president said no one can imagine the pain that surviving families
and friends have endured or how difficult it has been for them to carry
on and rebuild their lives.
“But no matter how many years pass, no matter how many times we come
together on this hallowed ground, know this: that you will never be
alone,” Obama said.
“Your loved ones will never be forgotten,” he added. “They will endure
in the hearts of our nation because, through their sacrifice, they
helped us make the America we are today -- an America that has emerged
The president noted that those who boarded the ill-fated airliners or
went to work at the World Trade Center or the Pentagon on the morning of
Sept. 11, 2001, had no inkling of what was to come.
“Most of the Americans we lost that day had never considered the
possibility that a small band of terrorists halfway around the world
could do us such harm,” Obama told the Pentagon audience.
“Most had never heard the name al-Qaida,” he said, “and yet it's because
of their sacrifice that we've come together and dealt a crippling blow
to the organization that brought evil to our shores. Al-Qaida's
leadership has been devastated, and Osama bin Laden will never threaten
us again. Our country is safer, and our people are resilient.”
Most of those who died on Sept. 11 had never worn the nation’s uniform,
the president said, but they inspired more than 5 million Americans to
enlist in the military services and do everything their country has
asked over the past decade.
“Today, the war in Iraq is over. In Afghanistan, we’re training Afghan
security forces and forging a partnership with the Afghan people. And by
the end of 2014, the longest war in our history will be over,” Obama
said. “Meanwhile, countless civilians have opened their hearts to our
troops, our military families and our veterans.”
In 2001, memorial services were held for Americans of different races
and creeds, backgrounds and beliefs, Obama said. “And yet,” he added,
“instead of turning us against each other, tragedy has brought us
American’s fight is with al-Qaida and its affiliates, not with Islam or
any other religion, the president said. “This country was built as a
beacon of freedom and tolerance,” he continued. “That’s what's made us
strong, now and forever.
On a day when others sought to bring the nation down, its citizens
choose to build it up with a National Day of Service and Remembrance,
the president said.
“This anniversary allows us to renew our faith that even the darkest
night gives way to a brighter dawn,” he said. “Today we can come here to
the Pentagon and touch these names and kneel beside a building where a
single stone still bears the scars of that fire.”
In Pennsylvania, anyone can visit the field of honor where one of the
hijacked airliners crashed on 9/11 and remember the heroes who made it
sacred, he added. In New York, water cascades into the footprints of the
Twin Towers, and a new tower rises above the New York skyline.
“Though we may never be able to fully lift the burden carried by those
left behind, we know that somewhere a son is growing up with his
father’s eyes, and a daughter has her mother’s laugh -- living reminders
that those who died are with us still,” Obama said.
When the history books are written, the president said, “the true legacy
of 9/11 will not be one of fear or hate or division. It will be a safer
world, a stronger nation, and a people more united than ever before.”
on a cool morning that was much like the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, the
president and First Lady Michelle Obama began the day with a simple
ceremony of their own at the White House. Soon after 8:30 a.m., hundreds
of White House staff gathered on the South Lawn in the shade of the
portico and in patches of sun. Most stood with hands crossed in front of
them, speaking in whispers.
At 8:45 a.m., two Marines appeared before the door beneath the portico
leading onto the South Lawn. Another pair of Marines presented the
colors -- one holding the flag, the other a trumpet.
At 8:46 am, about the time American Airlines Flight 11 struck the North
Tower of the World Trade Center in New York in 2001, a full Marine color
guard emerged from the doors, taking up a place on each side of an aisle
left for the president and first lady.
The couple walked slowly down the grassy strip and stood with heads
bowed as the Marine trumpeter began playing taps, then held hands as
they walked back into the White House.