Justice News

Attorney General Eric Holder Speaks at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia’s 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony
Washington, DC
United States
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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Thank you, Ron [Machen], for your kind words, and for your outstanding leadership of an office that is very special to me – and an essential part of our nation’s Department of Justice.

As Ron just mentioned – and as many of you remember firsthand – I once had the privilege of leading this office. I understand the unique jurisdiction, and the vital national security prosecutions, that place you at the center of the Justice Department’s efforts to protect the safety of the American people. In a very real sense, you serve on the front lines of this fight. You’re helping to advance our most critical priorities. And you’re doing extraordinary work.

Let me assure you – Ron never misses an opportunity to brag about his team, and to tell me just how much you’re accomplishing. Especially as we commemorate the tenth anniversary of the most devastating terrorist attacks ever carried out against the United States, it’s clear that this work – your work – has never been more important, or more urgent.

That is one of the lessons of September 11th, 2001 – a day that transformed our entire nation and touched each of our lives. And I know that many of you experienced the human cost of 9/11 in a deeply personal – and painful – way.

The nearly 3,000 innocent victims of 9/11 included a remarkable, and cherished, alumna of this office. Some of us had the chance to work with Barbara Olson – to learn from her example, and to count her as a friend. She reached many others with her professional commentary, her bestselling books, and the enduring impact of her contributions.

Barbara was a wonderful woman – a dedicated public servant, a brilliant attorney, and a loving wife. As an AUSA in this office, and throughout her career, Barbara proved that her convictions ran deep, and that her fidelity – to the values she held dear, the principles she fought to defend, and the countless people whose lives she touched – was unshakeable.

On the morning of September 11th, 2001, Barbara boarded American Airlines Flight 77 – which soon was hijacked by five al-Qaeda terrorists, and plunged into the western side of the Pentagon.

Like so many others on that fateful day – in Arlington, Virginia; in my hometown of New York; and in a field outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania – Barbara’s life was cut tragically short. But – one decade later – as we gather to reflect on the events of 9/11, and to remember those who were taken from us so suddenly, I believe that – thanks to the heroic efforts of so many law enforcement officers and military service members; the vigilance of dedicated public servants like you; and the extraordinary resilience that the American people – today, our nation is not only safer, but stronger, than ever before.

Despite the best efforts of our enemies, our resolve has never wavered or weakened. Our commitment to doing not just what is necessary, but what is right – to protect the safety and the civil liberties of those we serve – remains certain. And, over the last 10 years, we have proven this nation’s ability to respond to terror threats, but never – never – to submit to them.

That’s why, at its core, the anniversary we observe every September 11th is 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. It’s about offering our strongest support to law enforcement officers, military service members, and the families of every victim. And it’s about renewing our commitment to upholding the uniquely American values that have always defined and strengthened this great nation.

In this spirit – and in honor of our fallen colleague – I am proud to join you in dedicating a national security conference room to Barbara’s memory, here in the critical office where she once served.

As we carry on her work– and build on the record of achievement that each of you has helped to establish – let us draw inspiration from all those who have dedicated their lives to the service of others, and whose memories remind us of the quiet power of compassion, patriotism, and selflessness that shone through the smoke and the wreckage of 9/11.

These values have always given our nation strength – even in our darkest moments. Let us continue to honor them. And let us continue our work to ensure that – in our own time and in the work of future generations – the lessons of September 11th, and the rich legacies of those we lost, will never be forgotten.

Thank you.