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The President, the Vice President, the First Lady and Dr. Biden: A Day of Service and Remembrance
02:47 PM EDT
The President was joined by Defense Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs at the Pentagon Memorial. Vice President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden were at Zuccotti Park in New York City. And the First Lady was with Mrs. Laura Bush at the memorial ceremony in honor of the passengers and crew of United Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Watch a short, moving video touching on all three events above.
All of them took part in service projects afterwards, and Serve.gov is helping Americans across the country take part in this Day of Service and Remembrance. Excerpts of their remarks below the photo gallery, which you can also view in full size.
Nine years have now passed. In that time, you have shed more tears than we will ever know. And though it must seem some days as though the world has moved on to other things, I say to you today that your loved ones endure in the heart of our nation, now and forever.
Our remembrance today also requires a certain reflection. As a nation, and as individuals, we must ask ourselves how best to honor them -- those who died, those who sacrificed. How do we preserve their legacy -- not just on this day, but every day?
We need not look far for our answer. The perpetrators of this evil act didn’t simply attack America; they attacked the very idea of America itself -- all that we stand for and represent in the world. And so the highest honor we can pay those we lost, indeed our greatest weapon in this ongoing war, is to do what our adversaries fear the most -- to stay true to who we are, as Americans; to renew our sense of common purpose; to say that we define the character of our country, and we will not let the acts of some small band of murderers who slaughter the innocent and cower in caves distort who we are.
They doubted our will, but as Americans we persevere. Today, in Afghanistan and beyond, we have gone on the offensive and struck major blows against al Qaeda and its allies. We will do what is necessary to protect our country, and we honor all those who serve to keep us safe.
They may seek to strike fear in us, but they are no match for our resilience. We do not succumb to fear, nor will we squander the optimism that has always defined us as a people. On a day when others sought to destroy, we have chosen to build, with a National Day of Service and Remembrance that summons the inherent goodness of the American people.
They may seek to exploit our freedoms, but we will not sacrifice the liberties we cherish or hunker down behind walls of suspicion and mistrust. They may wish to drive us apart, but we will not give in to their hatred and prejudice. For Scripture teaches us to “get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.”
They may seek to spark conflict between different faiths, but as Americans we are not -- and never will be -- at war with Islam. It was not a religion that attacked us that September day -- it was al Qaeda, a sorry band of men which perverts religion. And just as we condemn intolerance and extremism abroad, so will we stay true to our traditions here at home as a diverse and tolerant nation. We champion the rights of every American, including the right to worship as one chooses -- as service members and civilians from many faiths do just steps from here, at the very spot where the terrorists struck this building.
Those who attacked us sought to demoralize us, divide us, to deprive us of the very unity, the very ideals, that make America America -- those qualities that have made us a beacon of freedom and hope to billions around the world. Today we declare once more we will never hand them that victory. As Americans, we will keep alive the virtues and values that make us who we are and who we must always be.
The men and women of Flight 93 were college students and grandparents. They were businessmen, pilots, and flight attendants. There was a writer, an antique dealer, a lawyer, an engineer.
They came from all different backgrounds and all walks of life, and they all took a different path to that September morning.
But in that awful moment when the facts became clear, and they were called to make an impossible choice, they all found the same resolve.
They agreed to the same bold plan.
They called the people they loved –- many of them giving comfort instead of seeking it, explaining they were taking action, and that everything would be okay.
And then they rose as one, they acted as one, and together, they changed history’s course.
And in the days that followed, when we learned about the heroes of Flight 93 and what they had done, we were proud, we were awed, we were inspired, but I don’t think any of us were really surprised, because it was clear that these 40 individuals were no strangers to service and to sacrifice. For them, putting others before themselves was nothing new because they were veterans, and coaches, and volunteers of all sorts of causes.
There was the disability rights advocate who carried a miniature copy of the Constitution everywhere she went.
There was the Census director who used to return to the homes she’d canvassed to drop off clothing and food for families in need.
There was the couple who quietly used their wealth to make interest-free loans to struggling families.
And to this day, they remind us -– not just by how they gave their lives, but by how they lived their lives -– that being a hero is not just a matter of fate, it’s a matter of choice.
I think that Jack Grandcolas put it best –- his wife, Lauren, was one of the passengers on the flight -- and he said: “They were ordinary citizens thrown into a combat situation. No one was a general or a dictator. Their first thought was to be selfless. They knew ‘There was a 98 percent chance we’re not going to make it, but let’s save others’.”
Vice President Biden gave a reading of The Builders by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:
All are architects of Fate,
Working in these walls of Time;
Some with massive deeds and great,
Some with ornaments of rhyme.
Nothing useless is, or low;
Each thing in its place is best;
And what seems but idle show
Strengthens and supports the rest.
For the structure that we raise,
Time is with materials filled;
Our to-days and yesterdays
Are the blocks with which we build.
Truly shape and fashion these;
Leave no yawning gaps between;
Think not, because no man sees,
Such things will remain unseen.
In the elder days of Art,
Builders wrought with greatest care
Each minute and unseen part;
For the Gods see everywhere.
Let us do our work as well,
Both the unseen and the seen;
Make the house, where Gods may dwell,
Beautiful, entire, and clean.
Else our lives are incomplete,
Standing in these walls of Time,
Broken stairways, where the feet
Stumble as they seek to climb.
Build to-day, then, strong and sure,
With a firm and ample base;
And ascending and secure
Shall to-morrow find its place.
Thus alone can we attain
To those turrets, where the eye
Sees the world as one vast plain,
And one boundless reach of sky.