The Fourteenth Anniversary Of The 9/11 Terrorist Attacks
Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, in a solemn ceremony today, a new visitor center and museum was opened at the site near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where 40 courageous Americans were killed fourteen years ago tomorrow attempting to regain control of United Airlines Flight 93 from four hijackers. The 9/11 Commission Report makes it clear that the hijackers intended to crash Flight 93 either into the White House or the Capitol Building.
Our individual and collective memories of that horrific day remain fresh, and the pain is still very real. But in the minutes, hours, days, and years following the attacks, Americans have showed their amazing propensity for bravery, sacrifice, selflessness, and compassion in an incredible variety of ways.
Today, American men and women in this country and abroad stand at the ready to thwart the plans of those who wish to do us harm. We have an obligation to support them and their families during their missions, as well as when their missions end. Congress has a special obligation to care for those still living with the emotional and medical burdens of the attacks. As we begin to craft a new budget for our country, I will work to ensure full funding for the programs that support the first responders who risked their health in the effort to help others.
Others have said that the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 didn’t test the American character; they revealed it. The terrorist attacks were intended to crush the American spirit; instead, they galvanized it to new strengths. We came together as a Nation to grieve. We came together as a Nation to bury our dead and to care for those who were hurt. We came together as a Nation to rebuild. And we came together as a Nation to pursue those who were responsible for the attacks and bring them to justice. We have accomplished a great deal with respect to those missions, but we have so much more to do. We must never become complacent. We must never lose our resolve.
We have a larger mission. President John F. Kennedy was on his way to deliver a speech at the Trade Mart in Dallas when he was assassinated on November 22, 1963. He was going to say:
We in this country, in this generation, are – by destiny rather than choice – the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vison of “peace on earth, good will toward men.” That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength. For as was written long ago: “except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.
Being “watchmen on the walls of world freedom” is an awesome responsibility. There are times when the responsibility seems more of a burden than a privilege. There are times when the world’s problems seem absolutely intractable and we grow weary of it all. There are times when we as Americans disagree whether or how we should meet that responsibility.
Today, both houses of Congress are involved in a debate about the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with respect to Iran, a state sponsor of terrorism with nuclear ambitions. We have serious disagreements about whether to support the JCPOA. It’s important, as we debate this issue, to remember that no one among us is clairvoyant or has a total grasp of the truth; no ideology or philosophy has a monopoly on wisdom. No party has complete political acumen. And no group has exclusive rights to use the word “patriot”.
If we want to honor the men and women on Flight 93 and on the three other hijacked jets, if we want to honor the people in the World Trade Center and at the Pentagon, if we want to honor the brave first responders who were climbing up the steps of the Twin Towers as people were streaming down the steps, and if we want to honor the servicemen and women who have given their lives in defense of our Nation, let us remember that what unites us as Americans is far more important than what divides us on particular issues, even an issue as existentially crucial as restraining Iran’s worst intentions and lawlessness. We are all Americans, each with the desire to see our families, our communities, and our Nation prosper, and to promote the American ideals of peace and freedom and justice to every corner of the Earth.
About one hundred miles east of the Shanksville, there is another field consecrated by the blood of Americans who gave “the last full measure of devotion” – Gettysburg. As President Abraham Lincoln said, it is our responsibility to dedicate ourselves “to the unfinished work” which others “have thus far so nobly advanced”. It is our responsibility to dedicate ourselves to the “great task” remaining before us, and that task is “a new birth of freedom”.
As we remember and mourn those who died in the 9/11 attacks and those who have died since that dreadful day fourteen years ago serving as “watchmen on the walls of world freedom”, let us meet our awesome responsibility united, as Americans, all of us patriots in our own way, acknowledging that it is our privilege and it is our destiny.
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