John F. Kerry photo

Radio Address to the Nation

September 11, 2004

Good morning, this is John Kerry.

Three years ago today, on a bright September morning, a young couple took their three-year old daughter on her first airplane flight – American Flight 11, from Boston to Los Angeles. On that morning, a security guard stood watch at the World Trade Center, proud that in just six days, he would become an American citizen. He had already told his wife to wear her nicest dress to the ceremony. On that morning, a firefighter left his pregnant wife, and reported for duty at Rescue Company 4 to fill in for someone else. It was supposed to be his day off.

On September 11, 2001, they and nearly 3,000 others were living out the daily rhythm of life in a nation at peace. But on that morning, in a single moment, they were lost, and our land was changed forever.

In the hours after the attacks, we drew strength from firefighters who ran up the stairs and risked their lives so that others might live. From rescuers who rushed into smoke and fire at the Pentagon. From the men and women of Flight 93 who sacrificed themselves to save our nation's Capitol. They didn't think twice. They didn't look back. And their courage lifted our nation.

That was just the beginning. In the days that followed, we saw an outpouring of love as people across America and around the world asked themselves, "What can I do to help?" How can I, as the Scripture says, help repair the breach? [Isaiah 58:12]

In Whitehall Township, Pennsylvania, Christians and Jews came together to attend services at a local mosque. They came to support their Muslim friends and neighbors – and together, they prayed as one.

The people of Akron, Ohio wanted to do something for the firefighters of New York. So they dug deep into their pockets and donated enough money to buy a fire truck, two ambulances, and three police cars.

And in Reno, Nevada, two little girls started a penny drive to help the families of the victims. They hoped, as one of them put it, to "make their hearts feel better."

So while September 11th was the worst day this nation has ever seen, it brought out the best in all of us.

I know that for those who lost loved ones that day, the past three years have been almost unbearable. Their courage and faith have been tested in a way they never imagined. But day after day, they have held on. And day after day, they and we have found hope and comfort and strength by the quiet grace of God.

We are one America in our prayers for those who were taken from us on September 11th and for their families. And we are one America in our unbending determination to defend our country – to find and get the terrorists before they get us.

A poet once wrote that those who have left us "...have a silence that speaks for them at night...They say: our deaths are not ours; they are yours; they will mean what you make them...They say: we leave you our deaths. Give them their meaning."

In the past three years, with countless acts of bravery and kindness – large and small – Americans have given meaning to those lives. That terrible day has renewed our sense of purpose. And in the years ahead we will share its lessons with our children and grandchildren. We will tell them that on September 11th, ordinary men and women became heroes at a moment's notice – and so can you. We will tell them that we were strong because we took care of each other – and so can you. We will tell them that we came together in tragedy, chose confidence over fear, and that our love for America far outshone the darkness of those who hate us.

Finally, we will tell them that on September 11th and the days that followed, we learned in the hardest way possible that the American spirit endures. It is that spirit which leads us to defy the terrorists and affirm that freedom will win. It is that spirit which sustains the families of September 11th as they rebuild their lives. And it is that spirit which will guide us as we rebuild those towers – stronger, higher, and more beautiful than ever before. Just like America.

Thanks for listening.

John F. Kerry, Radio Address to the Nation Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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