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Secretary of Defense Ash Carter Remarks at 9/11 Memorial, Friday, September 11, 2015

Sept. 11, 2015
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter

General Selva, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

To the families of those who lost their lives here at the Pentagon, let me begin by offering on behalf of the Department of Defense my deepest condolences for the loss you suffered and the burden you continue to carry.  We cannot fully appreciate how much your lives changed, or how much you lost on this morning 14 years ago.   We cannot understand how it has felt on every day since, to long for their laugh, or to see their smile, or to feel their embrace.  We simply cannot comprehend the weight of their absence.  But for me, and for so many others at the Pentagon, the weight of their memory, and our duty to honor it, is something we do carry with us every day.

For all of us, their memory serves as an ever-present reminder: to cherish each day with those who love us, to stay vigilant against those who would harm us, to remain guided by the values that have always made us great. 

At times we depend upon something other than what we hold in our heads and hearts to remember: maybe it’s a poem taped to your mirror; maybe it’s coming to this ceremony every year.  For me, it’s a piece of the Pentagon that sits on my desk – collected from the rubble and passed down by each of my predecessors who have served since that horrific day.  Beneath this piece of Indiana Limestone reads a simple inscription:  “To honor the 184 people whose lives were lost, their families, and all those who sacrificed, that we may live in freedom, we will never forget.”

We will never forget – though try as we may, we can never fully know how you feel on this solemn day.

But we do know, we fully know, what the lives of your loved ones mean to this community and to our country.  And I hope you know that by returning here to the Pentagon each year, you set an example of strength and resilience for all of us.

Terrorists who hope to intimidate us will find no satisfaction and no success in threatening the United States.  Because not only do we come back, but by living in honor of those we have lost, we come back stronger than ever before. 

And after 14 years, and forever more, terrorists who threaten us will learn this simple, yet unbending, truth: no matter how long it takes, no matter where they may hide, they will not escape the long arm of justice.  The threat from terrorism may evolve but our determination to hold these killers accountable remains constant.  As Americans, we have the will to see that justice is done.  As a military, we have the capability to see that justice is done.  And because of our men and women in uniform, because we can rely on the finest fighting force the world has ever known, we know that justice will be done. 

When terrorists attacked the Pentagon, they tore a hole in this building.  They tore at places in your hearts that may never heal completely.  But as you know better than anyone, they did not and could not take from us what defines us.

As Americans, we are defined by our resilience, by our readiness to stand up for our values, by our willingness to honor the past, even as we always begin anew.  With your example, you have embodied those ideals. You have shown us how to persevere, how to move forward, how to memorialize those we have lost in what we make of our lives.

So today and all days, we honor and remember your loved ones. Because of the example you have set for each of us, for our American family, you have our deepest admiration and appreciation. 

Within this community, we will never forget.  We will always remember.  We will continue to honor the memory of those you have lost with the work we accomplish together.