Pentagon Memorial Dedication Ceremony (Washington, D.C.)
As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Washington, D.C., Thursday, September 11, 2008
Mr. President, Mrs. Bush, Vice President, Madame Speaker.
Good morning, and thank you all for coming today. It is an honor to be part of this solemn occasion, and I would like to recognize Secretary Rumsfeld for the indispensable role he played in helping to bring the memorial project to fruition. Mr. Secretary, the valor you showed here, seven years ago, was an inspiration to all in the Pentagon and to all of America.
On the morning of September 11, 2001 the unthinkable arrived on this spot. With this memorial we pay our respects to 184 souls; to the many who were injured; and to the families who still grieve. While no public display can make up for the injustice, or lessen the pain of these losses, the memorial we dedicate today binds all of America to the dead and their survivors. Your suffering and your solace, so personal to you, become the nation’s as well.
From this time forward, the Pentagon will be more than a symbol of government, more than the seat of military power. It is also a place of remembrance.
Visitors will come from far and wide seeking contact with something nearly incomprehensible: that fanaticism once laid its terrible hand upon this building. How can the meaning of September 11 be conveyed in this restful park beside a renovated Pentagon? Newly planted trees spread their leaves. Cars travel along Route 27. Passenger jets fly by. And they fly close.
We know what took place, yet it is not easy to really grasp it – the moment that came, and went, and changed us forever. Succeeding generations will be further yet from that reality, making this commemoration, on the very flight path of American Airlines Flight 77, all the more important.
In light and in shadow – in granite, steel, and limestone – this memorial tells the story to future generations. They won’t directly feel the heat, smell the smoke, or know the horror of that day. But they will know, as the inscription says, that “We claim this ground.”
We claim this hallowed ground for peace and for healing. We claim it in affirmation of our strongest belief as a people: that every life is precious.
A poet said: “Not a truth is destroyed nor buried so deep among the ashes but it will be raked up at last.” The truth that survives the ashes, is this: the 184 are not forgotten. The others who died in New York and Pennsylvania are not forgotten. And we as a nation will not bow to those who so cruelly took them from us.
These are not the ruins of the attackers, they are the fortifications of memory, of love, and of resolve.
Thank you very much.
The man I’m about to introduce once said that “Our nation is strong of heart, firm of purpose.” Those words also describe him. For the last seven years, George W. Bush has steadfastly led the defense of our country and faithfully supported the men and women of the U.S. military. Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States.