As he stood where a
hijacked airliner slammed into the Pentagon 10 years ago today, Defense
Secretary Leon E. Panetta said the United States has become stronger and
safer since Sept. 11, 2001.
Secretary Leon E. Panetta delivers remarks at the Pentagon 9/11
observance ceremony, Sept. 11, 2011, honoring the 184 victims killed
when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon during a
terrorist attack 10 years ago. DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st
Class Chad J. McNeeley
“Today, Americans mark 10 years since that calm September morning when
our country, our people, and our way of life came under attack,” Panetta
told an estimated 1,300 people gathered outside the Pentagon this
Panetta, along with Vice President Joe Biden and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen,
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke during a ceremony honoring
the 184 people killed at the Pentagon and on American Airlines Flight 77
The entire nation, the secretary said, joined those gathered at the
Pentagon, at the World Trade Center site in New York, and in Shanksville,
Pa., today in remembering the nearly 3,000 people who died that day at
At 9:37 a.m., 10 years to the minute since Flight 77 hit the building,
the crowd at the Pentagon hushed in a moment of silence for the men,
women and children who died in the smoke, flame and wreckage following
From the ceremony site, audience members could see both the part of the
building damaged in the attacks – rebuilt by Sept. 11, 2002 – and the
Pentagon Memorial, dedicated on the seventh anniversary of the attacks.
“At this very moment, on this very spot, it is difficult to believe that
… this was the scene of incredible devastation,” Panetta said.
The attacks a decade ago demonstrated “vicious hatred aimed squarely at
our values,” he said.
“They tried to weaken us; instead, they made us stronger,” he added.
In the aftermath of 9/11, Panetta said, Americans came together to
reaffirm “our shared belief in liberty, equality, tolerance and
fairness. And 10 years later, we again affirm our commitment to those
The strength of America’s democracy rests in the willingness of its
citizens to give something back, and to fight and sacrifice in times of
crisis, the secretary said.
“Sept. 11 was such a time,” he said. “In the wake of the attacks, a
generation of Americans stepped forward to serve in uniform, determined
to confront our enemies, [and] to respond to them swiftly and justly.”
Over the past decade, service members have relentlessly pursued those
who would harm the nation, Panetta said.
“Because of their sacrifices, we are a safer and stronger nation today,”
he added. “And the principal terrorist behind these attacks has been
brought to justice.”
than 6,200 soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsman have
lost their lives in the wars since 9/11, and like the victims of that
day, they always will be remembered for their ultimate sacrifice to the
nation, he said.
“Today, we think of their families, who have suffered tragedy and
heartbreak,” he said. “We think of the thousands of veterans who carry
the seen and unseen wounds of war, … and we grieve for those lost.”
That grief serves as inspiration to make the nation stronger and better
for future generations of Americans, Panetta said.
“On this spot, at this moment, 10 years later, this is our solemn prayer
and our solemn pledge -- for ourselves, for our children, for our
nation, to our world,” he said.