Thursday, September 11, 2008

Lest We Forget,...

From the memorial ceremonies outside the Pentagon this morning, the words of Donald Rumsfeld:

Men and women of the Pentagon — military and civilian — what a high honor it is to be with you again. We went through a great deal since September 11th, and I will always treasure our time together.

This morning we gather to dedicate this ground, where a great building became a battlefield, where stone became dust, steel became shrapnel; and where flame, smoke and destruction stole the lives of 184 men, women and children.

This Memorial tells the story of their last, terrible moments on this earth — moments when families were destroyed, when a symbol of America’s strength was scarred, and when our country became, in the words of an American poet, “acquainted with the night.”

Today we renew our vows to never forget how this long struggle began, and to never forget those who fell first.

Remembered and honored are fellow workers, friends, and family members. They were men and women at their desks in the Pentagon, who one morning kissed their loved ones goodbye, went off to work, and never came home. And they were the passengers and the crew aboard Flight 77, who in their last moments made phone calls to loved ones, and prayed to the Almighty, before their journey ended such a short distance from where it began.

Each with different backgrounds and different dreams, it was here that their fates were cruelly merged forever. In the flag that flies above this memorial, we will be reminded of what they had in common. They fell, side by side, as Americans. And make no mistake, it was because they were Americans that they were killed here in this place.

Those of us who were in the Pentagon on September 11th, share — and we will always share — a very special bond with each member of their families and with each other. We will not forget the way this huge building shook. We will not forget our colleagues and friends who were taken from us and from their families. And we will not forget what that deadly attack has meant for our country.

In the sinister logic of its perpetrators, and in the suffering of its victims, September 11th was among the darkest of days for Americans. But it was also the day that America can be said to have rediscovered its special grace — the American people’s capacity for courage, for goodwill, and for sacrifice.

Here, beneath the sloping fields of Arlington National Cemetery — fields that hold our nation’s fallen — this building stands as a silent monument to the resolve of a free people. And so too this Memorial in its shadow will stand not only as a symbol of a nation’s grief, but as an eternal reminder of men and women of valor who saw flame and smoke and stepped forward to save and protect the lives of their fellow Americans on September 11th.

Let it also remind us of each of those who have volunteered to serve in our nation’s Armed Forces, before and every day since. Our nation’s military has stood guard in this new age of peril, determined that what happened here, seven years ago, must not happen again.

We have been “acquainted with the night.” We have taken its measure. In the darkest of times, we have stood together. In defiance, our nation has pressed on toward morning. With resolve renewed, and with the certain strength of the American people, our nation will force the dawn.

My constant prayer is that God will bless the families of those we remember this day. And that the good Lord will bless all of those who have lost loved ones in the long struggle that has followed. We are deeply in their debt. And each of us will remain so for the rest of our lives.


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