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version below transcribed directly from audio]
Morning. It’s an honor to be here with all of
During my first year as Director, back in 2017, I
joined the TSC [Terrorist
Screening Center] in commemorating the 16th anniversary of the September 11
attacks. And now, in the blink of an eye, four more years have passed, and it’s
sometimes hard to
believe that tomorrow marks the 20th anniversary of
that tragic day.
never forget being with former Director Mueller and then-Attorney General
Ashcroft in SIOC [Strategic
Information and Operations Center] on the day of those attacks. The place was packed to capacity, with people
spilling out of every corner, more joining by the minute -- all trying to
help, trying to comprehend the horror that was unfolding. And though it was a
chaotic and shocking time, it was also a time of incredible solidarity. Because
every single person there -- at that very moment -- had just one purpose: to
make sure it never, ever happened again; to keep people we will never know, and
families we will never meet, safe from harm. And I was humbled and inspired by that
feeling then, and I -- I still am.
Since stepping into this role, I’ve had the somber
privilege of visiting each site --
the Pentagon, Shanksville
93 National Memorial], and Ground Zero
itself several times. And while visiting the
National September 11th Memorial and
Museum in New York on one of those times, I observed -- like many do who've spent time
there -- a quote from the ancient Roman poet, Virgil, displayed prominently on a
wall, and it reads, “No day shall erase you from the memory of time.”
Two decades after one of the darkest days in this
nation’s history, that memory is as strong as ever. We remember September 11th as
if it were yesterday. And we remember every life lost. Special Agents
John O’Neill were two of those we lost that day. And in the last few
years, painful remnants of that day continue, as we’ve also sadly lost other
members of our FBI family to 9/11-related illness. I’ve had the honor of
speaking with them during their final days, and at their funerals with their
loved ones and their family. And those moments have been some of the most sobering over
the past four years, but also the most reverent, because on behalf of the entire
FBI, I was able to one more time thank them for their selflessness and service
to our country.
Each life lost is a stark reminder that the
long-term effects of the recovery work after September 11th are still present,
even 20 years later. And as we stand here today, some are still suffering,
especially our partners and first responders, who’ve been hit the hardest.
They’ve lost colleagues and friends over the years too, all of whom were
extraordinary men and women who answered the call of duty no matter the cost.
Over the course of the past two decades, we’ve
learned the full extent of the sacrifices that hundreds of first responders made
in the months after the attacks, sacrifices and lives that we must never, and will never, forget.
You may have heard me say before that for a time
after those attacks -- when the shock and the sorrow were still so very raw -- we
lived in a haze of days that seemed almost like September 12th, over and over again. We
all kept asking ourselves, “What could we have done better? What should we have done
better?” But we soon realized that looking back with regret wasn’t helpful.
Under Director Mueller’s leadership, the FBI adopted a mentality of doing
everything we could -- and still can -- to make sure we never have to ask that
question, “What should we have done?” again. And instead, we began to live as if every day
were September 10th. And we’re still living that way today. Every day, we wake up
asking ourselves, “What do we need to do to keep people safe today and
tomorrow and the day after?”
Because of September 11th, the FBI transformed
itself in ways that have made us better able to carry out our mission to protect
the American people and uphold the Constitution. We became an intelligence-based
national security and law enforcement organization -- one that collects, uses,
and shares intelligence in everything we do -- and not just in counterterrorism. We
developed new capabilities to combat the terrorist threat, and we changed our
focus from investigating terrorist and attack plots after the fact, to stopping
them before they occur. And we forged deeper, stronger partnerships with our
colleagues in law enforcement and the intelligence community, and with our
All of these transformations have proven critical
over the past two decades and will remain critical. As the tragic loss of
brave American service members and nearly 200 Afghans in Kabul painfully reminds
us, foreign terrorist groups like ISIS still seek to carry out large-scale
attacks against us.
For me, personally, September 11th was the single
most impactful experience in my career. And I think anybody working at DOJ or the
FBI on that day would say the same.
And when I came back as Director, I realized that the FBI
was made up of some folks who, like me, remember exactly what they were doing at
the FBI on that day. And then there were those motivated by September 11th to join the
FBI. But then there were those who were only kids when the attacks happened. And
now, we’ve started hiring interns who weren’t even born when 9/11 happened.
And that’s why it is so important that we take the time to remember this day; and why
we now send all new agents and analysts to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum up in New
York, so that they never forget how that day transformed our nation -- and how it
transformed the FBI.
Today we are stronger, smarter, and better able to confront the threats we face now and the ones we can’t see yet.
And while those threats have evolved a lot in 20 years, the men and women of the
FBI -- and our scores of law enforcement and intelligence partners -- have never
stopped working to keep the American people safe from another attack. And I
can’t thank all of you for that enough. I go to sleep at night much easier
knowing you’re on the job, keeping watch over the citizens we serve.
In a few minutes, we’ll observe a moment of
silence. It’s a -- a moment to remember the heartbreak of that dark day; to remember
those that we lost as a nation. And for those of us in the FBI, it’s a moment to
reflect on why we do this work -- and who we do this work for.
The American people are counting on us.
counting on us to bring justice to victims of terrorism and crime, and to their
They’re counting on us to make sure that others never have to
experience what they’ve gone through.
So thank you for being there when they’re
counting on you, every single day. And thank you for your selfless dedication to
the American people. I’m honored and humbled to serve alongside you.
Book/CDs by Michael E. Eidenmuller, Published by
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