As we remember 9/11, we honor those who we lost and thank those who serve and protect our country. Last year, President Clinton joined President George W. Bush, Vice President Joe Biden, and Representative John Boehner at the Flight 93 Memorial Dedication in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Read the text of President Clinton's speech below.
Before President Bush came up to speak, I asked him if he was having a hard time, and he said, “I was doing fine until I looked at everyone here.”
Last night, Hillary came home after spending the day in New York and her eyes were red. Ten years ago she was the senator representing the 343 fireman and nearly 900 people from Cantor Fitzgerald who died, and all the others. As we remember what happened in New York, at the Pentagon, and here, the rest of us must honor those who were lost. We must also thank those who loved them for keeping their memory alive, raising their children, and finding the strength to go on with their own lives.
We should also thank President Bush, President Obama, Vice President Biden, and all those who serve with them for keeping us from being attacked again. Speaker Boehner, I thank you and the members of the Congress who are here, and those who have been in Congress for the last ten years trying to respond to the findings of the 9/11 Commission and improve our ability to secure our homeland.
But here, in this place, we honor something more. I was very moved, as you were, when President Bush calmly recounted the facts of what happened with your loved ones over this field a decade ago. There has always been a special place in the common memory for people who deliberately, knowingly, certainly laid down their lives for others.
President Bush is from Texas, and I sometimes think that since I grew up in Arkansas, that’s a more important difference between us than our partisanship. Regardless, every child I grew up with was raised on the memory of the Alamo—the defining story of Texas. Why? Because those people knew they were going to die, but the time they bought and the casualties they inflicted allowed the whole idea of Texas to survive. It allowed those who live there now to enjoy the life they do.
The first such great story I have been able to find that reminds me of your loved ones, occurred almost 2,500 years ago, at the Battle of Thermopylae. The king of Sparta, facing a massive Persian army, took 300 of his finest soldiers to a narrow pass to fight. The Spartans and their king all knew they were going to die. The Persian enemy said, ‘We are going to fill the air with so many arrows that it will be dark,’ and the Spartans said, ‘Fine, we will fight in the shade.’ They all died, but the casualties they took and time they bought saved the people they loved.
This is something different—for at the Alamo and at Thermopylae, they were soldiers. They knew what they had to do. Your loved ones just happened to be on a plane, as Mr. Pinsky said. With almost no time to decide, they gave the entire country an incalculable gift. They saved the Capitol from attack; they saved God knows how many lives; they saved us from the terrorists claiming a symbolic victory by smashing into the center of American government—and they did it as citizens. They allowed us to survive as a country that could fight terror and still maintain liberty, still welcome people from all over the world, from every religion, race, and culture as long as they share our values. Ordinary people, given no time at all to decide, did the right thing. And 2,500 years from now, I hope and pray to God that people will still remember this.
Since I am no longer in office, I can do unpopular things. I told the Secretary of the Interior, the head of your development program, that I was aghast to find out that we still need to raise ten million dollars to finish this place. Speaker Boehner and I have already volunteered to do a bipartisan event in Washington. Let’s get the show on the road. Let’s roll.
Thank you and God bless you.