By President Biden
On this 9-11 like every 9-11, I’m thinking about my friend Davis who I grew up with in Delaware. On this day 20 years ago, he and his family had just passed the first year without their youngest of three sons Teddy who died in a boating accident at age 15, and his eldest son Davis Jr was just six days in the new job on the 104th floor of the south tower at the World Trade Center.
Davis went straight to ground zero search for a son. They searched deep into the last inning of hope as he put it. A few days later, I spoke with Davis and talked as fathers who know I was on my way to speak to the students at the university of Delaware about what to make of the new world we were in. He told me to tell people quote: “Don’t be afraid.” He said tell them don’t be afraid. The absolute courage it took after two unimaginable losses is extraordinary yet the most ordinary of American things to know.
Life can be unfair and uncertain. A cruel twist of accident or deliberate act of evil. But even in darkness, to still be the light to the families of the 2977 people from more than 90 nations killed on September 11 2001 in New York City, Arlington Virginia, and Shanksville Pennsylvania, and the thousand more who were injured. America and the world commemorate you and your loved ones.
The pieces of your soul we honor. All those who risk and gave their lives in the minutes, hours, months, and years afterwards. The firefighters, police officers, EMTs and construction workers and doctors and nurses, faith leaders, service members, veterans and all of the everyday people who gave their all to rescue, recover, and rebuild. But it’s so hard whether it’s the first year, the 20th children have grown up without parents and parents have suffered without children. Husbands and wives have had to find ways forward without their partners in their life with them. Brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, loved ones and friends have had to celebrate birthdays and milestones with a hole in their heart. No matter how much time has passed and these commemorations bring everything painfully back as if you just got the news a few seconds ago. And so on this day, Jill and I hold you close in our hearts and send you our love. There are people around the world that you’ll never know who are suffering. Through their own losses who see you your courage. Your courage gives them courage that they too can get up and keep going. We hope that 20 years later the memory of your beloved brings a smile to your lips even while still bringing a tear to your eye. The days that followed September 11, 2001 we saw heroism everywhere in places expected and unexpected. We also saw something all too rare a true sense of national unity. Unity and resilience, the capacity to recover and repair in the face of trauma. Unity and service. The 911 generation stepping up to serve and protect in the face of terror to get those terrorists who are responsible, to show everyone seeking to do harm to America that we will hunt you down, and we will make you pay, that will never stop today, tomorrow, ever from protecting America. Yet, we also witness the darker forces of human nature, fear and anger, resentment and violence against muslim Americans, true and faithful followers of a peaceful religion. We saw a national unity bend. we learn that unity is the one thing that must never break. Unity is what makes us who we are. America at its best. To me that’s the central lesson of September 11th. It’s that at our most vulnerable, in the push and pull of all that makes us human, and the battle for the soul of America, unity is our greatest strength. Unity doesn’t mean we have to believe the same thing. We must have a fundamental respect, and faith in each other. And in this nation, we are unique in the history of the world because we’re the only nation based on an idea. An idea that everyone is created equal and should be treated equally throughout their lives. That is the task before us. To once again lead not just by the example of our power but by the power of our example.
And I know we can for I know hope is not simply an expectation. Hope is a conviction. Hope allows us to act with courage to act and honor those we lost 20 years ago, and those who have given their whole souls to the cause of this nation every day since to act and build a future not a reactionary one or one based on fear but a future of promise strength and grace worthy of their dreams and sacrifice, and to act and keep the faith that while life is fragile it is truly something wonderful.
We find strength in its broken places as Hemingway wrote. We find light in the darkness. We find purpose to repair renew and rebuild. As my friend told me that September 20 years ago, we must not be afraid. May god bless you all.
May God bless the lives lost on September 11, 2001, and their loved ones were left behind. May God protect our troops.