News   Observances

Austin, Milley Call on Americans to Remember, Honor 9/11 Victims

Sept. 11, 2021 | BY Jim Garamone , DOD News

Americans must remember what happened on this date 20 years ago and rededicate themselves to defending the idea of America, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said at a Pentagon ceremony honoring those killed in the terror attack on the Pentagon.

The Secretary of Defense speaks at a podium.
Austin Remarks
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III delivers remarks at the Pentagon September 11th Memorial service on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Sept. 11, 2021.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Jack Sanders, DOD
VIRIN: 210911-D-XI929-1045

''As the years march on, we must ensure that all our fellow Americans know and understand what happened here on 9/11, and in Manhattan, and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania,'' the secretary said. ''It is our responsibility to remember. And it is our duty to defend democracy.''

Terrorists flew a plane full of innocent people into the Pentagon – a building full of people pledged to protect the idea that is America. 

An Army general in uniform speaks at a podium.
Chairman Remarks
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark A. Milley speaks at the September 11th Memorial service on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks at the Pentagon, Sept. 11, 2021.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Jack Sanders, DOD
VIRIN: 210911-D-XI929-1042

At 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001, 184 innocent people were murdered. ''Remember them today for not only who they were but what they could have become,'' Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said at the ceremony. ''They were irreplaceable to their families, instrumental in their jobs, woven into the fabric of their community, full of life and potential.''

The terrorists attacked the very idea of America, a country based on the premise that all people have worth. ''The idea that each and every one of us [was] created free and equal, the idea that we will rise or fall based on merit,'' the chairman said. 

The secretary of defense stands at a lectern while speaking to a wide audience while fire trucks display the American flag in the backdrop.
Pentagon Ceremony
Audience members look on as Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III provides remarks during a ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack at the Pentagon, Sept. 11, 2021.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Jack Sanders, DOD
VIRIN: 210911-D-XI929-1048S

Many at the ceremony were relatives of those lost that day or were Pentagon workers who were there when the building was attacked.

Many of those workers at the ceremony reported back to work the next day to begin – even as the building was still burning – to bring those responsible for the attacks to justice.

A sailor rings a bell while a soldier reads from a lectern.
Remembrance Tribute
Service members ring a bell and read aloud the names of each person killed in the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon during a 20th anniversary ceremony at the Pentagon, Sept. 11, 2021.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Jackie Sanders, DOD
VIRIN: 210911-D-XI929-1033S
An audience watches a big screen in a parking lot.
Reading of Names
Service members read aloud the names of each person killed during the 9/11 terrorist attacks and ring a ceremonial bell for each name during a ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the attacks at the Pentagon, Sept. 11, 2021.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Jackie Sanders, DOD
VIRIN: 210911-D-XI929-1030S

''We do know that America will always lead,'' Austin said. ''And we do know the only compass that can guide us through the storms ahead: It is our core values and the principles enshrined in our Constitution – liberty, rights, the rule of law and a fierce commitment to a government of the people, by the people and for the people. It is our job to defend the great experiment that is America to protect this exceptional Republic, body and soul. And to defend the American people and our democracy even when it's hard – especially when it's hard.''

And the mission has been hard. Milley noted that since 9/11, more than 800,000 American service members served in Afghanistan. Tens of thousands more served in other areas to protect America from another 9/11. 

A total of 2,461 service members were killed in Afghanistan including 13 just last month as they worked to evacuate Americans and at-risk Afghans from the Taliban. Some 20,698 were wounded in the fight and many, many others suffer the unseen wounds of war. 

''For two consecutive decades, our men and women in uniform along with our brothers and sisters in the intelligence and law enforcement agencies, protected our nation from terrorist attack,'' Milley said. ''For those of us in uniform, for our families who have suffered and sacrificed along our sides, for those who have supported us, these have been incredibly emotional, exhausting, and trying years. 

A close up of a police badge that honors the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Remembrance Badge
A Pentagon police badge honors the 20th anniversary of 9/11 at the Pentagon, Sept. 11, 2021.
Photo By: EJ Hersom, DOD
VIRIN: 210911-D-DB155-009

''We are all now, this very day, very conflicted with feelings of pain and anger, sorrow and sadness, combined with pride, and resilience,'' he continued. ''But one thing I am certain of: For every soldier, sailor, airman, Marine, for every CIA officer, for every FBI agent, for every cop and fireman, you did your duty, your service mattered. Your sacrifice was not in vain. So let us resolve here, yet again, today on this hallowed ground, to never forget to never forget those who were murdered by terrorists. Never forget those who rushed to save their lives and gave there's in exchange. Never forget the sons and the daughters, the brothers and sisters and the mothers and fathers who gave their tomorrows for our todays. Honor them. Honor them today and forever. Honor the cause they served. Honor their commitment to this experiment and liberty that we call the United States of America.''

A stream of multiple blue lights shoot skyward.
Towers of Light
The Towers of Light display illuminates the night sky at the Pentagon, Sept. 9, 2021, honoring those who lost their lives in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Brittany A. Chase, DOD
VIRIN: 210909-D-BM568-1015S

Americans must be tireless guardians of these principles as well as defenders of security, Austin said. They go hand in hand. ''We cannot have one without the other,'' he said. ''The hallways that we tread were the ones that so many of them walked. It will always be our duty to fulfill their missions and to live up to their goodness. And to stand guard over this democracy. We still work here. We still remember here, and we still uphold our values here with clear heads and fearless hearts.''