Remarks as prepared for delivery:
Thank you, Brad [Brekke], for your kind words, for your service to our nation, and for your longstanding support of – and many contributions to – this remarkable organization. I’d also like to thank Craig [Floyd] and his team, and all of the Memorial Fund’s board members and advisors, for the outstanding work that you do every day on behalf of our nation’s law enforcement officers and their families.
I’ve been privileged to work with many of you over the years; and, on behalf of my colleagues across the Department of Justice, I am proud to count you as partners.
It’s an honor to stand with you once again today, and to join you in paying tribute to the 72 brave law enforcement officers who – on September 11th, 2001 – made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty. Especially this year, as we mark the tenth anniversary of the deadliest terror attacks ever carried out against the United States, it is fitting that we take time, not only to reflect on the devastation we witnessed – in New York City; in Arlington, Virginia; and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania – but also to remember the heroes who were killed fulfilling the sacred responsibility that our nation’s law enforcement officers willingly, and courageously, accept: to place the safety of others above their own.
As the brother of a retired Port Authority police officer, I understand the challenges – and the threats – you face every time you put on the uniform. I know the risks you take on behalf of your fellow citizens – just as these 72 heroes did when they heard the call go out that morning; or saw the smoke rising; or heard the cries of people in need.
Although nearly a decade has passed, none of us will ever forget where we were on that beautiful, autumn day. I remember, so clearly, the profound sense of loss that I felt as I watched the terrible news unfold; as I called my brother, and was humbled by the realization of just how many of his colleagues were in harm’s way; and as I saw the images of the World Trade Center Twin Towers crumbling to the ground. As a high school student in lower Manhattan, I’d watched these buildings go up, story by story, to become the iconic symbol New York City’s skyline – and a source of pride – not only for my hometown, but also for our entire country. As the towers fell, like every American, I was filled with sorrow. But I could not help but be inspired by, and strengthened by, the stories of so many dedicated law enforcement officers who ran toward the burning buildings, without hesitation and with the knowledge that this critical mission could be their last.
In the face of hatred and violence on an unprecedented scale, they demonstrated the quiet power of compassion, patriotism, and selflessness. These are the values that have distinguished our nation. And despite all that was lost and destroyed on September 11th – when I think back on that terrible day, these are the qualities that shine through – at the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon, and in the skies above Shanksville, Pennsylvania. These are the defining attributes that brought our nation together – and will continue to make this country an example for all the world. And, of course, these are the values that all of our nation’s law enforcement officers – and especially the 72 heroes we honor today – represent.
Because of them, the anniversary we observe every September 11th will always be about far more than the buildings that our enemies brought down, or the damage that they inflicted on our fellow citizens. It’s about honoring the heroism we witnessed on that fateful day – and the resilience that the American people have shown since. It’s about offering our strongest support to those – our first responders, our military service members, and – of course – their families – who have sacrificed so much to keep us safe. And, as we look to the future, it’s about renewing our commitment to public service and to protecting the safety of our fellow citizens.
This morning, as we reflect on the profound sacrifices and contributions of the many law enforcement officers and military service members who have risen to the challenge of securing our nation over the last decade – let us also reaffirm the enduring legacy of those we have lost: a nation that is not only safer, but stronger, than ever before.
Today – thanks to the vigilance and dedication of countless public servants across the country – our enemies’ capacity is diminished. But significant challenges, and critical threats, remain. And, as we look to the future, my colleagues and I – across the Department of Justice and the entire Administration – will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with organizations like the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund – and with every member of our America’s law enforcement community.
Let me assure you: we will make good on our commitment to offer our strongest support – and our best resources – to you and your families. And we will fulfill our pledge to work closely with partners in the military, in the intelligence community, and across law enforcement – to identify and combat those who seek to do us harm, and to protect the safety – and the sacred rights – of all those we are privileged to serve.
Let this be our commitment to those we honor this morning – the 72 brave individuals whose names are etched, along with more than 19,000 others, into the walls of this memorial. Let us carry on their unfinished work and strive – in their honor – to promote, not only safety and security, but also peace – and, above all, justice. And – as we leave this place today – let us do everything in our power to ensure that – in our own time, in the lives of our children, and in the work of future generations – the stories, the memories, and the rich legacies of those we lost on September 11th will never be forgotten.
Thank you. May God bless these fallen officers – and may God bless the United States of America.