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Pentagon Community September 11th Observance

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Pentagon Courtyard, Wednesday, September 11, 2013

General Dempsey, thank you.  Mike [Rhodes], thank you for your leadership.  Senator Kaine, members of our Pentagon community, thank you all today for coming together as a community to participate in this observance.

Though time continually moves us further away from September 11, 2001, we will never forget the men and women that our Pentagon community lost that day.

Neither will we forget the stories of those who served here on 9/11 and what they did in the days, weeks, months, and years that followed.

They are stories of heroism – of doctors who ran into the fire, to rescue, to treat people they had never known before, but felt their duty to save.

They are stories of dedication to the greater mission –the greater mission of more than 10,000 servicemembers and DoD civilians who came to work the next day – the next day – refusing to be beaten down by terror or intimidated by terror.  

They are stories of recovery and rebirth – of men and women who worked day and night for almost an entire year to clear the rubble and make the Pentagon whole again.

All of us who work at the Pentagon today – whether we were here on 9/11 or not – are deeply aware of this legacy of courage and resilience.  It is a source of strength.  It’s a source of strength to each and every person in our community, and in our country.  It gives us all a sense of purpose and pride, and strengthens our determination to continue the hard work of keeping this country safe.

Twelve years after the worst terrorist attack in our nation’s history, the world that confronts us today is markedly different – and yet, there are critical lessons in that tragedy for this Department, for all Americans, and the world.

Above all, 9/11 is a clear, living example of how the United States is not insulated – not insulated from the rest of the world, and the events and the threats from the rest of the world.  Events that take place halfway across the globe, in places like Afghanistan – these events can matter profoundly, do matter profoundly in our society.  And if we don’t act in the face of threats to our national interests and our future, there are consequences.

Winston Churchill once said that “the endless repetition of history” is defined by “unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, lack of clear thinking,” and “confusion of counsel until the emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong.”

9/11 was a “jarring gong” for the American people – and for all of us who are still grappling with its consequences and implications. 

But if there’s one clear message we can take away, it is that we must be vigilant, we must always stay ahead of emerging challenges and threats, and we must take action, but wise action – wise action – when necessary to defend our interests and our country.

That is our highest responsibility that we all have here at the Department of Defense, and we must always execute that responsibility with clear thinking and dedication.   

These are not easy times.  These are complicated times.  The world is growing more complex, interconnected, more combustible.  But America and the world have within our grasp the potential to do more good for more people than the world has ever known.  And whether we fulfill that promise depends on many ways – it depends on us, and it depends on our dedication, and the continued dedication of the men and women who are here today.

I am proud to be a part of your team.  Thank you – thanks to all of you and your families for everything you do for this country, and everything you will continue to do. 

God bless you all, your families, and all the men and women who serve our great nation all the time.

Thank you.

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