Thank you, Chaplain. It's a great honor for me to be here today. All of us reflect back at where we were and what we were doing two years ago this day. I remember after watching the first and second planes go into the world Trade Tower and getting that news and actually seeing the second plane on television, wondering what has happened, knowing that this was no accident, that -- what would happen next?
And I was receiving a call from the vice president standing in my front office of my -- that looks down the Mall to the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, and all of a sudden seeing a trail of black smoke that's getting thicker and thicker coming across the Mall. I said to one of my staffers, "What's happened?" And of course in a minute they came back with the news that the Pentagon had been hit by a third plane.
At that point, the world changed. The world that we know of peace and tranquility in this country, never really being attacked by terrorism, changed. And I think at the end of the day, many of us in this room stood collectively and said, we would not let this happen in this country again, in all our power if we could stop it.
A lot of history has happened since that time. In this very spot that we stand and worship this morning, there was the tragedy that happened closest to us. When that happened that day, the end of that day, I asked that the flags that were over the House and the Senate and the Capitol be taken down. And we did just that. And we really didn't know what the historic significance in the future would be. But the flag that was on the East Front of the Capitol, the closest to the Pentagon when that event happened, was preserved. And on behalf of the Congress, it's my great honor to present you, Mr. Secretary, with the flag that flew over the west side of the Capitol, the side closest to the Pentagon on September 11th, 2001.
It's fitting that this flag will serve as a powerful reminder of the bond between freedom and those who are willing to fight for freedom. We shall not forget the sacrifices of those Americans who died in the service of their country, whether it was here in this very place or in New York City or in Afghanistan or in Iraq or all the other sacrifices that people have made in the name of freedom of this nation.
I was moved when I heard that the employees of the Pentagon contributed not only their resources but their time and talent, that every piece of these sacred window for the Pentagon Chapel came from their hands and their talents. These windows were created to serve a living memorial of the fallen heroes who dedicated their lives serving this country so that we could live in a free America. I want to thank them for that.
May God bless all of our troops and those who are serving bravely in foreign shores. May God bless all of the heroes who lost their lives on 9/11. May we always remember them and grieve for their families and grieve with them. And may God bless America. Thank you very much.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Speaker Hastert, you do us a great honor by being with us today. We thank you. Chaplains, distinguished leaders of the Senate and the House, Senate Minority Leader -- Majority Leader Bill Frist and Minority Leader Tom Daschle. Where are you sitting? I can't -- there you are, Tom and Bill. Mrs. Frist, thank you so much for being here.
And House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, thank you for being here. Appreciate it. And House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, we're grateful for your presence and certainly for this flag.
This is an important day of remembrance for all of us. Chairman Dick Myers and members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, distinguished guests, men and women of the Department of Defense, ladies and gentlemen.
Mr. Speaker, in behalf of all of the military and civilian and contract employees of this Department, those who serve every day in this great building, those who protect and defend all of our families and our freedom at home and abroad, and especially the friends and colleagues of those who were lost that day two years ago, we accept this flag, the symbol of our country and of our faith in its founding ideas.
Throughout the proud history of our country, the flag has held a very special place in the hearts of Americans. A symbol of freedom to be sure, but more a symbol of America's spirit. The poet Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that "What makes a nation's pillar high and its foundation strong? Not gold, but only men can make a people great and strong." The men and women who in this place gave their lives in the performance of their duty are now a part of that foundation, and certainly upon their shoulders will stand the next generation of American heroes and patriots.
So we are grateful for their service. We're grateful for their sacrifice. And we thank God for the gift of their lives. And we pray for all those who suffer their loss. And we vow to always remember our obligation to ensure that freedom.
Mr. Speaker, we thank you for the gift of this very special flag. We thank the gifted designer and, I might add, most generous donor of these magnificent windows, Mr. Dennis Roberts, for helping to create a place of beauty and a place of peace. Thank you very much.
And may God bless all of you. Thank you.