9/11 marks a break from partisan politics

McClatchy NewspapersSeptember 11, 2012 

US NEWS 911-MEMORIAL 1 MCT

More than 800 family members of 9/11 victims attended the dedication of the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, on September 10, 2011.

CURTIS TATE — MCT

Tuesday is probably the only day between now and Election Day when politics gets nonpartisan and quiet.

To commemorate the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, members of Congress will hold a remembrance ceremony at the Capitol later this morning. Presidential candidates are reportedly running no negative ads.

In the presidential race, Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan has no scheduled activity and is in his home state of Wisconsin. Presidential nominee Mitt Romney will address a National Guard convention in Reno. President Barack Obama participated in a moment of silence and visited the Pentagon. Vice President Joe Biden spoke at the Flight 93 National Memorial In Shanksville, Pa. on Tuesday.

President Obama made these remarks during the ceremony at the Pentagon:

"Secretary Panetta, General Dempsey, members of our Armed Forces, and most importantly, to the families --survivors and loved ones -- of those we lost, Michelle and I are humbled to join you again on this solemn anniversary.

Today we remember a day that began like so many others. There were rides to school and commutes to work, early flights and familiar routines, quick hugs and quiet moments. It was a day like this one -- a clear blue sky, but a sky that would soon be filled with clouds of smoke and prayers of a nation shaken to its core.

Even now, all these years later, it is easy for those of us who lived through that day to close our eyes and to find ourselves back there -- and back here -- back when grief crashed over us like an awful wave, when Americans everywhere held each other tight, seeking the reassurance that the world we knew wasn’t crumbling under our feet.

Eleven times we have marked another September 11th come and gone. Eleven times, we have paused in remembrance, in reflection, in unity and in purpose.

This is never an easy day. But it is especially difficult for all of you -- the families of nearly 3,000 innocents who lost their lives -- your mothers and fathers, your husbands and wives, your sons and your daughters. They were taken from us suddenly and far too soon.

To you and your families, the rest of us cannot begin to imagine the pain you've endured these many years. We will never fully understand how difficult it has been for you to carry on, to summon that strength and to rebuild your lives.

But no matter how many years pass, no matter how many times we come together on this hallowed ground, know this -- that you will never be alone. Your loved ones will never be forgotten. They will endure in the hearts of our nation, because through their sacrifice, they helped us make the America we are today -- an America that has emerged even stronger.

Most of the Americans we lost that day had never considered the possibility that a small band of terrorists halfway around the world could do us such harm. Most had never heard the name al Qaeda. And yet, it's because of their sacrifice that we've come together and dealt a crippling blow to the organization that brought evil to our shores. Al Qaeda's leadership has been devastated and Osama bin Laden will never threaten us again. Our country is safer and our people are resilient.

It’s true that the majority of those who died on September 11th had never put on our country’s uniform. And yet, they inspired more than 5 million Americans -- members of the 9/11 Generation -- to wear that uniform over the last decade. These men and women have done everything that we have asked.

Today, the war in Iraq is over. In Afghanistan, we’re training Afghan security forces and forging a partnership with the Afghan people. And by the end of 2014, the longest war in our history will be over. Meanwhile, countless civilians have opened their hearts to our troops, our military families and our veterans.

Eleven years ago, memorial services were held for Americans of different races and creeds, backgrounds and beliefs. And yet, instead of turning us against each other, tragedy has brought us together. I've always said that our fight is with al Qaeda and its affiliates, not with Islam or any other religion. This country was built as a beacon of freedom and tolerance. That’s what's made us strong, now and forever.

And, finally, when those innocent souls were taken from us they left behind unfulfilled work and tasks that remain undone. And that’s why, on a day when others sought to bring this country down, we choose to build it up with a National Day of Service and Remembrance.

Scripture tells us "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." There's no better way to honor the best in those who died than by discovering the best in ourselves.

This anniversary allows us to renew our faith that even the darkest night gives way to a brighter dawn. Today, we can come here to the Pentagon, and touch these names and kneel beside a building where a single stone still bears the scars of that fire. We can visit the field of honor in Pennsylvania and remember the heroes who made it sacred. We can see water cascading into the footprints of the Twin Towers, and gaze up at a new tower rising above the New York skyline.

And even though we may never be able to fully lift the burden carried by those left behind, we know that somewhere, a son is growing up with his father’s eyes, and a daughter has her mother’s laugh -- living reminders that those who died are with us still.

So as painful as this day is and always will be, it leaves us with a lesson that no single event can ever destroy who we are. No act of terrorism can ever change what we stand for. Instead, we recommit ourselves to the values that we believe in, holding firmly, without wavering, to the hope that we confess.

That’s the commitment that we reaffirm today. And that’s why, when the history books are written, the true legacy of 9/11 will not be one of fear or hate or division. It will be a safer world; a stronger nation; and a people more united than ever before.

God bless the memories of those we lost. And God bless these United States of America."

Instead of the usual morning round of new ads or statements, the Republicans issued these statements Tuesday:

Romney: “Eleven years ago, evil descended upon our country, taking thousands of lives in an unspeakable attack against innocents. America will never forget those who perished. America will never stop caring for the loved ones they left behind. And America shall remain ever vigilant against those who would do us harm. Today we again extend our most profound gratitude to our brave troops who have gone into battle, some never to return, so that we may live in peace. On this most somber day, those who would attack us should know that we are united, one nation under God, in our determination to stop them and to stand tall for peace and freedom at home and across the world.”

Ryan: “Eleven years ago today, from Capitol Hill, I could see the smoke rising from the fires burning in the Pentagon. Like all Americans, I will never forget the moment that our homeland came under attack. For me, this is a day to remember those who perished on that day of terror, including the first responders. It is also a day to pay tribute to all those who have worked quietly and tirelessly both on the home front and abroad to prevent a repetition of such terrible events. And it is a day to give honor to those in our military who have sacrificed so much, including their lives, for the same end. Their courage and heroism and willingness to answer the call of duty have kept America safe and strong and free. We are truly the home of the brave.”

Vice President Biden made these comments during the Flight 93 commemorative service in Shanksville:

Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Superintendent -- Jeff, you’ve done a remarkable job here. And the thing I notice when I speak to you about is you’re invested in this place. It sort of has a -- sort of stolen a piece of your heart. And that’s why I’m confident that all that you plan will happen.

Patrick, you’re keeping the flame alive, and keeping the families together is -- from my experience, I imagine you all find solace in seeing one another. There’s nothing like being able to talk with someone who you know understands.

And it’s an honor -- it’s a genuine honor to be back here today. But like all of the families, we wish we weren’t here. We wish we didn’t have to be here. We wish we didn’t have to commemorate any of this. And it’s a bittersweet moment for the entire nation, for all of the country, but particularly for those family members gathered here today.

Last year, the nation and all of your family members that are here commemorated the 10th anniversary of the heroic acts that gave definition to what has made America such a truly exceptional place -- the individual acts of heroism of ordinary people in moments that could not have been contemplated, but yet were initiated.

I also know from my own experience that today is just as momentous a day for all of you, just as momentous a day in your life, for each of your families, as every September 11th has been, regardless of the anniversary. For no matter how many anniversaries you experience, for at least an instant, the terror of that moment returns; the lingering echo of that phone call; that sense of total disbelief that envelops you, where you feel like you’re being sucked into a black hole in the middle of your chest.

My hope for you all is that as every year passes, the depth of your pain recedes and you find comfort, as I have, genuine comfort in recalling his smile, her laugh, their touch. And I hope you’re as certain as I am that she can see what a wonderful man her son has turned out to be, grown up to be; that he knows everything that your daughter has achieved, and that he can hear, and she can hear how her mom still talks about her, the day he scored the winning touchdown, how bright and beautiful she was on that graduation day, and know that he knows what a beautiful child the daughter he never got to see has turned out to be, and how much she reminds you of him. For I know you see your wife every time you see her smile on your child’s face. You remember your daughter every time you hear laughter coming from her brother’s lips. And you remember your husband every time your son just touches your hand.

I also hope -- I also hope it continues to give you some solace knowing that this nation, all these people gathered here today, who are not family members, all your neighbors, that they’ve not forgotten. They’ve not forgotten the heroism of your husbands, wives, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers. And that what they did for this country is still etched in the minds of not only you, but millions of Americans, forever. That’s why it’s so important that this memorial be preserved and go on for our children and our grandchildren, and our great-grandchildren, and our great-great-grandchildren -- because it is what makes it so exceptional. And I think they all appreciate, as I do, more than they can tell you, the incredible bravery your family members showed on that day.

I said last year my mom used to have an expression. She’d say, Joey, bravery resides in every heart, and someday it will be summoned. It’s remarkable -- remarkable -- how it was not only summoned, but acted on.

Today we stand on this hallowed ground, a place made sacred by the heroism and sacrifice of the passengers and the crew of Flight 93. And it’s as if the flowers, as I walked here, as if the flowers were giving testament to how sacred this ground is.

My guess -- and obviously it’s only a guess; no two losses are the same. But my guess is you’re living this moment that Yeats only wrote about, when he wrote, pray I will and sing I must, but yet I weep. Pray I will, sing I must, but yet I weep.

My personal prayer for all of you is that in every succeeding year, you’re able to sing more than you weep. And may God truly bless you and bless the souls of those 40 incredible people who rest in this ground.

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