Address at the Pentagon Memorial Groundbreaking Ceremony
delivered 15 June 2006, Arlington, Virginia
[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]
[Initial introductory remarks excluded]
It means a great deal to us that all of you are here. And thank you so very much.
And a special welcome to the families of those who were killed here on September 11th; and to the survivors of September 11th, and there are a great many here. And I would include the press, because the press was in the building at the time the plane hit, as well.
And to those of you who are first responders, the firemen and ambulance people who came and provided aid, immediate aid to our colleagues, you honor us with your presence.
Our nation's capital city is rich with monuments to the men and women of our heritage. Among the most famous, of course, across the Potomac are the monuments to Washington and Jefferson and Lincoln, men who valued freedom, who helped to define it, to defend it, and to give it new birth.
It will not be long before a new monument stands on this side of the Potomac, the monument to the 184 who died so close to this spot. They had different lives and different dreams. And they shared a tragic destiny.
Many of you here have been instrumental in helping to make this memorial possible -- partners in the memorial fund that Jim and Rosemary head up, members of Congress, citizens, donors -- and we thank you for your dedication and your generosity.
And thanks to Julie Beckman and Keith Caseman. Are they here? Where are they? I haven't seen them yet. There you are. Stand up. These are the designers of this memorial. Let's -- Nice to see you both. Thank you for being here.
When completed, this memorial's individual benches will remind visitors that every one of these lives was special, with hopes cut short, and with loved ones left behind.
Among them was a girl named Zoe Falkenberg. She was traveling on the flight with her parents and her 3-year-old sister. She'd been a soccer player, on the swim team, and took part in her grade school production of "The King and I." She was eight.
We remember her, of course, and we remember all who hallow this ground. The passengers of American Airlines Flight 77, and the men and women, military and civilian, who worked here and quietly and capably served our country.
Today, we claim this ground for them, for their families, and for the brave service men and women who have volunteered to go out to meet our nation's enemies and to keep our country safe.
If I may, I want to say a word to the family members here who lost loved ones on September 11th.
At some point in the future most of you will return to this sacred ground. You might walk between what will be newly planted trees out behind me, pass by the benches, each with a name etched in the granite.
No doubt, you'll search for the name of the person who once helped give your life meaning and who, perhaps, always will.
And as you reflect, you'll be flooded with memories -- of your loss, to be sure, but also split second images of love, of laughter, and of joyous times.
This memorial was meant for you, to offer some comfort.
We have talked over the years, and now you can know that we will never forget. So I thank you for coming, and may God be with you and with your families.
And to other Americans who might one day come to this memorial many years from now, I want to say this:
Some day there may come a time when you might encounter a stranger here, maybe a child born after September 11th, looking around wondering what this memorial's all about. Well, tell them that this is where men and women became targets and were killed because they were free Americans. Tell them that there have always been those who fear and oppose our country's values, our cause. And tell them that history is the epic story of those enemies defeated and freedom's triumph.
Then, as those young visitors grow older, they'll understand that those we honor here did not die in vain, that their countrymen's grief was turned towards the cause of our nation's defense, and that our enemies were no match for the brave Americans who are uncompromising in their mission, unapologetic for their purpose, and unyielding in their quest for freedom and for peace.
May God bless you and may God continue to bless our wonderful country.
Original Audio Source: C-SPAN.org
Original Image #1 Source: U.S. Navy photo/Chief Photographer's Mate Johnny Bivera. At: https://www.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/130689/site-dedicated-to-pentagons-sept-11-victims/
Images #3 and #4 Source: DVIDSHub.net
Image #2 Source: Defense.gov
Page Created: 9/9/20
Page Created: 9/9/20
U.S. Copyright Status: This text and audio = Property of AmericanRhetoric.com. Image #1 and #2 = Public domain (with use likely subject to these terms). Image #2 and #3 = Public domain (with use subject to these terms)