Obama: Honor 9/11 Victims by Staying True to U.S. Values

WASHINGTON, Sept. 11, 2010 — Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma this morn­ing paid trib­ute to the 184 peo­ple who died in the ter­ror­ist attack on the Pen­ta­gon nine years ago today, say­ing Amer­i­ca hon­ors their sac­ri­fice by hold­ing firm to the nation’s ideals of uni­ty and tol­er­ance.

“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,” Oba­ma told some 200 fam­i­ly mem­bers of 9/11 vic­tims gath­ered at the Pen­ta­gon Memo­r­i­al. “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.”

Oba­ma spoke at 9:34 a.m. at the same time and place that the hijacked Amer­i­can Air­lines Flight 77 slammed into the Pen­ta­gon, and under strik­ing­ly sim­i­lar weath­er con­di­tions: a cool, Sep­tem­ber morn­ing under a bright blue sky with the sun ris­ing bright­ly over the Pen­ta­gon roof to the south side of the build­ing.

Stand­ing along­side Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Oba­ma called the Sept. 11 anniver­sary a reflec­tion, uni­ty and renew­al.

“We gath­er to remem­ber, at this sacred hour, on hal­lowed ground – at places where we feel such grief and where our heal­ing goes on,” he said.

While it’s nat­ur­al to dwell on the images of car­nage from the attacks and the final moments of the vic­tims’ lives, Oba­ma told the fam­i­lies, “these memo­ri­als and your pres­ence today remind us to remem­ber the full­ness of their time on Earth.

“They were fathers and moth­ers rais­ing their fam­i­lies, broth­ers and sis­ters pur­su­ing their dreams, sons and daugh­ters [with] their whole lives before them,” he said. “They were civil­ians and ser­vice­mem­bers.”

Oba­ma not­ed that the vic­tims – near­ly 3,000 from the attacks on the Pen­ta­gon, at the World Trade Cen­ter in New York and aboard a hijacked plane that crashed in Penn­syl­va­nia – were of all races and faiths. “They were Amer­i­cans and peo­ple from far cor­ners of the world,” he said. “And they were snatched from us sense­less­ly and much too soon. But they lived well, and they live on through you.”

The lega­cy of the 9/11 vic­tims should be pre­served by a renewed sense of com­mon pur­pose among Amer­i­cans, and a con­vic­tion to not give in to an ene­my that wants to divide the nation, the pres­i­dent said.

“As Amer­i­cans, we are not and nev­er will be at war with Islam,” Oba­ma said. “It wasn’t a reli­gion that attacked us on that Sep­tem­ber day. It was al-Qai­da – 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.”

In the past nine years, the Unit­ed States has per­se­vered, going on the offen­sive to quash al-Qai­da in Afghanistan, where the attacks were planned, Oba­ma said. “They may seek to strike fear in us, but they are no match for our resilience,” he said.

“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,” Oba­ma said. “Today we declare once more that 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.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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