United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

Secretary of Defense Speech

Press Operations Bookmark and Share

Speech


September 11th Commemoration

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta, Pentagon Memorial, Arlington, VA, Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Mr. President, Mrs. Obama, General Dempsey, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, and in particular family members who lost a loved one here on 9/11.

Eleven years ago, on a morning very much like this, terrorists attacked the symbols of American strength: our economy and our commerce, our military might and our democracy – and took the lives of citizens from more than 90 countries.  It was the worst terrorist attack on America in our history.

Today, people gather from across the United States and around the world to remember the tragic events of 9/11.  Some take part in ceremonies like this.  Others spend time alone in quiet reflection and prayer.  And all of us take a moment to remember again where we were at that fateful moment.

Here together as one family we pause to honor, and to pray, and to remember 184 lives lost at the Pentagon, more than 2,700 killed in Lower Manhattan, and the 40 who perished in that field in Pennsylvania on Flight 93. 

These victims’ families remember those who were lost as mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters.  To the family members here today, know that the entire nation joins you in mourning the loss of your loved ones.  We are honored by your presence.  And just as your loved ones are heroes forever, so are all of you.

Today we also recognize and remember other heroes, those first responders who rushed to the scene behind me, into the fire and chaos to save lives and helped in any way possible.  We owe you a very special debt, and we appreciate all you did to provide aid and comfort to those who needed it so badly.

Our thoughts also turn to the survivors.  On that bright, sunny Tuesday morning, you reported to work with no idea about the tragedy lay ahead.  Suddenly, this building was rocked by an explosion.  After the impact, many of you risked your lives to help others.  Many can remember the smell of the rubble and jet fuel.  And some of you knew the victims as office-mates and friends, and knew their families.

Like sixty years before, a nation at peace suddenly found itself at war.

For all of you and for every American, this memorial is a permanent place for prayer and remembrance.  And it is a fitting tribute to the lives of those so cruelly taken from us – the passengers and crew of Flight 77, and military and civilian personnel working here at the Pentagon.  It is a fitting tribute to all who were lost.   Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit another memorial – the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville.  I was reminded of those horrible moments after the hijacking, when the passengers and crew were able to make frantic to speak to their loved ones for the last time.  They knew what was at stake, and yet they decided to fight back.  Together, they took swift and decisive action to stop yet another attack targeted at the nation’s capital.

That spirit of selflessness, that spirit of determination, and courage is the enduring legacy of 9/11.  It inspires our nation.  It inspires our military to ensure such an attack never happens again.  It inspires us to never forget those who perished; to defend our homeland and our ideals; and to send a resounding message to our enemies:  that no one attacks the United States of America and gets away with it.

For today we also recall that out of the shock and sadness of 9/11 came a new sense of unity and resolve.  It inspired a fierce determination to fight back and protect our way of life.  In trying to attack our strengths, the terrorists unleashed our greatest strengths.  The spirit and the will for Americans to fight for our country.

Millions of Americans have responded.  A whole new and great generation stepped forward to serve in uniform, to fight in this war on terrorism.  They bled on distant battlefields.  They relentlessly pursued those who would do us harm.  They put their lives on the line to give all of us a safer and better future, and to bring those behind these attacks to justice.

Because of their sacrifices, because they were willing to fight and to die, and because of their dedication, our nation is stronger and safer today than on 9/11.  We never gave up the search for Bin Laden and we successfully brought him to justice.  We decimated the leadership of Al Qaeda -- we have them on the run -- and we have made it difficult for them to plan and conduct another 9/11 attack.  And while that group is still a threat, we’ve dealt it a very heavy blow.  And we will continue to fight them in Yemen, in Somalia, in North Africa.  Wherever they go.  To make sure that they have no place to hide.

Our troops denied safe haven to Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and they’re fighting so that Afghanistan can secure and govern itself.  Make no mistake:  we will continue to pursue and fight our enemies wherever they go, wherever they hide, wherever they try to find refuge – we will never stop until we have made sure that America is safe. 

On this day of solemn remembrance, let us renew a solemn pledge – to those who died on 9/11 and to their families.  It is a pledge we also make to all of those who put their lives on the line, and who have paid a heavy price over the last 11 years of war. 

Our pledge is to keep fighting for a safer and stronger future, our pledge is to ensure America always remains a government of, by, and for all people.  That pledge, that legacy, makes clear that no one who died on that terrible day died in vain.  They died for a stronger America. 

This morning we are honored by the presence of our military and civilian leaders, and we are particularly honored by the presence of President and Mrs. Obama.  The president has led our efforts in this fight and I am honored to have served with him.  It’s now my great honor to introduce our Commander-in-Chief.  Ladies and Gentlemen, President Barack Obama. 

Most Recent Speeches

11/24/2014

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Washington, D.C.

11/15/2014

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Simi Valley, CA

11/14/2014

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Pentagon Press Briefing Room

11/13/2014

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Washington, D.C.

11/12/2014

As Delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work, Center for Strategic and International Studies Fifth Annual Global Security Forum 2014 in Washington

11/11/2014

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C.

10/17/2014

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Marine Barracks, Washington DC

10/17/2014

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Washington, D.C.

10/15/2014

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Washington, D.C.

10/13/2014

As Prepared for Delivery by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Arequipa, Peru

Additional Links

Stay Connected