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Ceremony Honoring Pentagon Builders
Remarks as Delivered by Delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz , , Wednesday, September 11, 2002

John and Dick, thank you. Dick said, put that in an honored place, and I can assure you that that’s where it will go. This award recognizes each one of the extraordinary men and women who have rebuilt the Pentagon with some of the greatest tools there are: professionalism, passion and pride. This one’s for you. [Applause]

I know in your program it says that at this point I am Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, but I hope by now everyone knows who he is, so you know I’m not him. I’m his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz. He was unable to join us, but he is very much here in spirit. He has visited this site many times since September 11 of last year, both during the recovery operation and during the reconstruction, and he conveys his deepest thanks to everyone who’s participated in this and his thanks to all of you who’ve come here today to honor this great achievement, a great American achievement. So I’m here to welcome you on his behalf, although maybe some of you workers should welcome me, because from what I can tell you’ve been spending more time in the Pentagon the last few months than even I and my staff have. So thank you. [Applause]

I’m sure that Lee Evey –Lee, as you know, is the Program Manager of the Pentagon renovation project. I don’t believe it’s been mentioned, but it is known to the whole country that it is thanks to that original work that as many people were able to survive on that terrible day last year as were, and we’re indebted for that original work.

Lee, you have a calm demeanor, but it belies the real dynamo inside. Your leadership, which was apparent from the moment you came here in 1997, inspired your workers to do their best throughout this enormous challenge. And they have repaid your leadership with incredible performance. Next week, Lee retires after more than three decades of federal service and Army service before that in Vietnam. Now, it’s reported that Lee has said, matter of factly, "Somebody will take my place." But truthfully, Lee, you will be very hard to replace. You have made your mark in the hearts of America and everyone who works here in this building. And you will be missed. So to Lee and Gigi , we thank you and we wish you Godspeed. [Applause]

Governor Warner, Senator Warner, Senator Allen, Congressman Moran, thank you for being with us on this special day. And thank you for your wonderful support for the Defense Department and to our men and women in uniform, particularly over this past difficult year.

I want to give a special thank you to the men and women who prepared this site for all of today’s observances and to the planners who brought it together.

Honored guests, including our most honored guests, the families and friends of those we lost a year ago, and those we remember today, and finally, the men and women who have done such magnificent work rebuilding America’s Pentagon on budget and ahead of schedule. You are American heroes, and the heroes we honor at this event today. Would you all please stand so that we can recognize your achievement? [Applause]

In the spirit of Lee Evey’s comments, let me say ["thank you" in foreign languages], and thank you from the bottom of our hearts in every language that every American immigrant has ever spoken. Thank you. [Applause.]

Your sweat and sacrifice does a great honor to the men and women whom we’ve lost here a year ago, and in the day since. And in their memory, let us just observe a moment of silence.

[MOMENT OF SILENCE] Thank you.

As the smoke rose from these very walls a year ago, within those walls in the first of many press conferences to come, Secretary Rumsfeld announced that, the Pentagon will be open for business tomorrow. Well he was right. The Pentagon, although broken and burning, was running. Secretary Rumsfeld’s declaration that we would go on not only set the tone for what was to follow, but captured what was happening here already.

For even as concrete crumbled and fires continued to blaze, you mobilized in minutes, gathering blueprints and plans to help rescuers understand what was happening inside. You drove forklifts and heavy machines to help the FBI, FEMA and firefighters sift through debris, while others reached for flashlights and searched for survivors. While many of you worked straight through that terrible night, before the sun rose the following morning, more than 200 more were standing in line, waiting to join you, to do what could be done in that sad effort of search and recovery.

Soon after that terrible day, Secretary Rumsfeld would remind us again, that business would go on and that we would rebuild. He made the promise, and you helped us keep it. [Applause.]

When the fires of these burning walls were finally quenched, a new fire began to burn, a fire of the spirit that drove you to show your love of our country and your defiance of the terrorists, as you rebuilt these walls piece by piece. In the days and months that followed, you worked and you sacrificed, night and day, weekends and holidays, rain or shine, and your families supported you in this labor for America, for that is exactly what it was.

Over the last 11 months, as thousands of people passed by the Pentagon each day, they witnessed a remarkable transformation. Charred walls, once broken and burned, became whole once more.

You, our builders, adopted the battle cry that first came from the throats of other heroes, from Todd Beamer and his comrades on board Flight 93. "Let’s roll," they said. They did, and so did you. You have healed this wall, and in doing so, you have helped to heal our nation.

In his address just days after the attacks, President Bush told us that, "Adversity introduces us to ourselves. This is true of a nation as well. In this trial," he said, "we have been reminded, and the world has seen, that our fellow Americans are generous and kind, resourceful and brave. Americans have shown a deep commitment to one another and an abiding love for our country."

That deep commitment and abiding love, so evident in this painstaking and energetic rebuilding, honors those who died here, those who died in New York, those who died in Pennsylvania, and those who have died and are fighting for us now on the frontlines around the world in this war against terrorism.

Your work defies those who seek not to build, but to kill and destroy. The men and women who were lost here on that morning last September died, as Secretary Rumsfeld has said, because their attackers sensed that the opposite of all those attackers were and stood for resided here. "Those Americans died," he said, "because of how they lived, as free men and women, proud of their freedom, proud of their country and proud of their country’s cause, the cause of human freedom. They died because they were Americans."

And we rebuild for that very same reason—because we are Americans. [Applause]

I have long believed that America’s greatest power, even more than our vast resources, even more than the beauty we see all around us, more than our great melting pot or that great military might that is owed in part to the men and women who work in this building, more than all of these, America’s greatest power is what this country stands for: Our enduring values; our right and the right of all people to govern themselves; to enjoy peace and prosperity, justice and freedom; to find God and to worship God in our own way. All of that is evident here in your efforts for all the world to see.

Builders have always understood that buildings are far more than brick and mortar and stone. Buildings are statements of hope, determination, declarations of faith in the future, acts of commitment to plans and purposes that extend far beyond the present. And as long as this Pentagon stands -- and that will be a long, long time -- the Pentagon will remain a symbol of America’s resilience, endurance and resolve. [Applause]

One among you, already a four-year veteran of Pentagon renovations before the attack last September, said something that explains much about what I believe has motivated all of you through long days and nights of demanding and dangerous work. He said, "It is an honor to put back what was once destroyed."

Well, the honor at this moment is ours, as we stand among those of you who represent the very best of America, to be among men and women who have demonstrated once again that America is a land where dreams are large, where hearts hunger to build a better world, where ordinary people achieve extraordinary things.

Every one of you who gave the Pentagon back to America surely fulfilled those words of the prophet Isaiah who spoke: "See upon the palms of my hands, I have written your name. Your walls are ever before me. Your builders outstrip your destroyers."

For this great blessing, the work of your hands, we are humbly and deeply grateful. As we behold your handiwork and see its message of hope, we recall our missing friends and family, who teach us still—as you have—that the legacy of selflessness, virtue, and strength goes far beyond a single lifetime and survives tragedy and trial.

Isaiah teaches us another timeless lesson, that out of suffering and hardship we will one day know peace. "Yes," said the prophet, "in joy shall you depart, in peace shall you be brought back. In the place of thorns, the cypress shall grow. Instead of nettles, the myrtle. These shall stand as a testimony to the Lord, as an everlasting sign that shall not perish."

Because of Americans like you and those Americans we remember today, the ideals for which America stands shall not perish. This building, standing whole and healed once again, tells us these ideals will live. They will flourish. They will endure as a living testament to a great nation under God.

May God bless the men and women here and across America who stand together and labor for freedom. May God bless those who survived, and those who were left behind. May God bless the men and women of our armed forces who serve our nation so faithfully and well. And may God bless America. Thank you. [Applause]

NOTE: Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz spoke at the Phoenix Construction site, next to the Pentagon’s rebuilt outer wall. In his remarks, he referred to John Nau, Chairman, Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and Richard Moe, President, National Trust for Historic Preservation, who presented an award recognizing the Phoenix Project, which rebuilt the damaged portion of the Pentagon, as a model of historic preservation, which Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz accepted on behalf of the Department and the men and women who did the work.