11 Memorial Ceremony
Five years have passed since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States of America. On that day, nearly 3000 innocents from the United States, from Germany, and from 82 other countries lost their lives.
September 11th will always be a day to mourn those who died. We do that here today.
However, after living the last year in Europe, I have come to realize that you need to be an American to understand what 9/11 means to us. Europeans settled our country 400 years ago. Our nation was born 230 years ago. Never in all those years were so many defenseless innocent civilians slaughtered by the willful acts of evil men. It is clear to Americans that fundamentalist terrorists declared war on our civil population, our sons, daughters, and children.
America will never be the same, nor will we view the world the same. We greatly appreciate the sympathy and support of Germany together with the rest of the free world as all realize the terrorists attacks are against the people of democratic societies.
What we honor and celebrate on each anniversary of that fateful day is at the heart of the difference between ourselves and those evil persons. We honor and value human life, they do not.
On 9/11 we remember the acts of heroism as humans gave up their own lives to try to save other humans. More American police officers perished that day than on any other day as they rushed to save people. Similarly, more firefighters perished that day as they went willingly into doomed buildings. On flight 93, passengers fought valiantly to save their fellow passengers and those on the ground.
September 11th will always be a day on which we honor the spirit of those who stepped forward to respond with extraordinary courage and sacrifice. Their acts of heroism occupy a place of honor in our history and in our hearts.
As a result, I think people everywhere appreciate more than ever before the role that police officers, firefighters, and other rescue and response professionals play in our societies. We commend those in uniform here today. I want to thank the German government as a whole and all the individuals who are involved in fighting against the violent ideology we saw displayed on that day and in protecting Germans, Americans and all civilians in this country. Everyday we count on you. And everyday you make us feel welcome and secure.
We have all seen that buildings may fall, but the human spirit is indestructible. We saw in New York City and Washington, but also in London, Madrid, Bali, Istanbul and Bombay, and many other places, that people get up and start putting their lives back together again, re-building.
Our spirit is unbroken. In fact, it is stronger than ever. September 11 underscored our faith in the essential dignity of human life. While small groups of terrorists have repeatedly shown their contempt for human life - regardless of race, ethnicity or religion – shared sorrows, helping hands, and dialogue have brought people closer together.
Our ability to create a peaceful world depends on how we can work together, side by side, as partners. God wants us to be different. As the Quran (Koran) says, if God had willed it, he could have made us all of one nation. The challenge for us is to maintain, indeed celebrate, our differences in a humane, civilized way; to transform the walls that still separate us into tables where we can enjoy together the blessings of God on this Earth. In the Talmud, one reads, “Who is brave?” The answer is - one who turns an enemy into a friend.
This is what we have also learned from September 11 -- to reach out to each other across all kinds of boundaries, to stand up for justice and fair play, and to show kindness and forgiveness. I find the special prayers for the events of September 11 being held in 40 Berlin Mosques last Friday a wonderful example of this spirit.
Listen to what visitors have said after visiting Ground Zero. “Life seems to have added meaning and value…One should treasure every day… Since September 11, many hearts have changed. They are more loving and sincere… I think we all now know the meaning of family, friend, and associate. We take human life more seriously.”
So when we talk about how September 11 changed our world -- this is where the conversation should begin. The images and stories of that terrible day remind us of our common and fragile humanity.
Who cannot, after all, forget just where they were or what they were doing when they first heard the news or saw that an airplane had plowed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in Manhattan? That was on September 11, 2001, at 8:46 Eastern Standard Time, 2:46 here in Germany (look at your watch). Fifteen minutes later, a second plane hit the South Tower. The Twin Towers, where up to 50,000 people worked each day, collapsed some 90 minutes later.
At 9:37 that same morning, a third airplane slammed into the Pentagon. At 10:03, a fourth plane - Flight 93 - crashed in a field in southern Pennsylvania. It had been aimed at the United States Capitol or the White House and was forced down into that field by heroic passengers armed only with the knowledge that their country was under attack.
I was in Washington on Capitol Hill that terrible morning. My wife and I drove hundreds of miles home to Ohio because there were, of course, no flights. On the way back to Canton, we passed the burning Pentagon, we even passed the field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania where Flight 93 went down.
I visit New York frequently and to this day when I am there on a clear, blue sky day, I remember September 11 and the images of the twin towers. I also remember the two beacons of light shining right up into the night sky above Manhattan at a Ground Zero memorial ceremony. In my office, I have a photograph of those towers of light because for me they are symbolic of human spirits rising to the heavens. We will not forget.
And so, today, five years later, let us share a moment in silence to remember that sad and terrible day, the lives lost, the heroic deeds.
Each Anniversary of September 11 stands before history as evidence that good continues to prevail over evil.
Please rise and
join me in a moment of silence.
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Updated: September 2006