I am honored to mark this day with the families of Flight 93.
And I’m glad to be here with a First Lady who serves our country with such grace.
Thank you, Governor Rendell and Secretary Salazar for your good words.
When I first came here on September 17, 2001, this quiet field was scarred by a smoldering crater. Our grief was raw and our heartache was heavy. We were just learning the names of those aboard Flight 93, and the story of their sacrifice.
This peaceful place was not chosen by the terrorists - they had other targets for their violence and hate. This spot was chosen by the passengers of Flight 93, who spared our country from even greater horrors. And as we gather to remember those who were lost and honor their courage, we are deeply grateful.
The events of September 11, 2001 grow distant in time, but they remain vivid in the memory of our nation, and in the hearts of those who suffered so great a loss.
Over the years, we’ve learned the stories of those last minutes aboard Flight 93. Passengers placed calls to authorities to warn them of the hijacking. We know they called family members to assure them of their love – and to tell them of their plans.
One passenger called his wife and said, “I know we’re all going to die – there’s three of us who are going to do something about it. I love you, honey.”
And we know that in the midst of their fear, they were calmed by their faith.
A crew member called her husband and told him that they were going to rush the hijackers. Over the phone line he heard other passengers whispering the Twenty-third Psalm, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: For thou art with me.”
Nine years ago - in the skies above this field, and in Washington and New York City, we saw the worst of our enemy and the best of our nation. And we were suddenly reminded of many, half-forgotten lessons. We saw that there is evil in the world - but also good at the heart of our country. America was attacked, but the deepest belief of our democracy was vindicated --- that our greatness and strength is found in the character of our citizens. Americans responded with heroism and selflessness; with compassion and courage; and with prayer and hope.
In our grief we learned “that our faith is an active faith – that we are called to serve and to care for one another – and to bring hope and comfort where there is despair and sorrow.”
We remember 9/11, not only as a day of great loss, but as a day of recommitment to certain enduring values. When the innocent are attacked, Americans defend them. When the innocent suffer, Americans rally to their aid. In the face of terror, Americans choose to overcome evil with good.
And it was following the tragic events of that September morning that we saw “the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” We saw it here as Shanksville’s first responders rushed to this field … and in the endurance of all those who worked past exhaustion to rescue people trapped in the Towers and the Pentagon. And again as millions of Americans participated in blood drives, candlelight vigils, and memorial services…saying prayers in English, Hebrew, and Arabic. And we found healing in the unity born of shared grief.
Where this field was marked by smoldering ashes there is now green grass. But the passage of time cannot erase the images etched in our minds from that calm September morning. We remember the moment the news came -- where we were and what we were doing.
George and I grieved with the families whose loved ones perished on that bright blue morning. We thought about you every day that we lived in the White House and your stories remain close to our hearts. George sends his love.
And today we join with all Americans and pause to remember those most affected by that day.
We remember the families and friends of the lost, who still feel the wound of September 11th each day.We know the memories of your loved ones have not aged with time. You inspire us with your grace and strength.
We remember the law enforcement and intelligence personnel who stand watch on our behalf at every hour.
And we remember the men and women of our military, who oppose radicalism and terrorism at this very hour, in Afghanistan, Iraq and other places around the world.
On this day, Americans have no division. Together, we recall the events that changed each one of us… and that united our nation. Together, we honor the lost in silence - and remember that our quiet and peace is always defended by the courage of the brave.
May God bless you all. And may God bless America.