Bill Clinton photo

Remarks at Dedication of Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania

September 10, 2011

Before President Bush came up to speak, I asked him if he was having a hard time. And he said I was doing fine until I looked at you, all of you. Last night, Hillary came home after spending a day in New York. And her eyes were red because 10 years ago she was the senator representing those 343 firemen and nearly 900 people from Cantor Fitzgerald who died and all the others. As we remember what happened at the -- in New York, at the Pentagon, and here, all the rest of us have to honor those who were lost, to thank those who love them for keeping their memory alive, raising their children, and finding the strength to go on with your own lives.

I think we should also thank President Bush and those who served with him, Vice President Biden, President Obama, those who served with them, for keeping us from being attacked again. I thank them for that.


Speaker Boehner, I thank you and the members of Congress who are here and who have been in the Congress for the last 10 years trying to respond to the findings of the 9/11 commission and improve our ability to secure our homeland.

But here in this place we honor something more. I was very moved as you were when President Bush calmly recounted the facts of what happened with your loved ones over this field a decade ago. There has always been a special place in the common memory for people who deliberately, knowingly, certainly laid down their lives for other people to live.

President Bush is from Texas, and I sometimes think because I grew up in Arkansas that's the more important difference between us than our partisan differences.


But every child I grew up with was raised on a memory of the Alamo, the defining story of Texas. Why? Because those people knew they were going to die. But the time they bought and the casualties they inflicted in the cause of freedom allowed the whole idea of Texas to survive. And those who live there now to enjoy the life they do.

The first such great story I have been able to find that reminds me of all your loved ones, however, occurred almost 2,500 years ago. When the Greek king of Sparta facing a massive, massive Persian army took 300 of his finest soldiers to a narrow pass called Thermopylae. There were thousands upon thousands upon thousands of people. They all knew they were going to die. He told them that when they went. And the enemy said we're going to fill the air with so many arrows that it will be dark. And the Spartans said, fine, we will fight in the shade. And they all died.

But the casualties they took and the time they bought saved the people they loved. This is something different. For at the Alamo and at Thermopylae, they were soldiers, they knew what they had to do. Your loved ones just happen to be on a plane.

With almost no time to decide, they gave the entire country an incalculable gift. They saved the capitol from attack. They saved God knows how many lives. They saved the terrorists from claiming the symbolic victory of smashing the center of American government. And they did it as citizens.

They allowed us to survive as a country that could fight terror and still maintain liberty and still welcome people from all over the world from every religion and race and culture as long as they shared our values, because ordinary people given no time at all to decide did the right thing. And 2,500 years from now, I hope and pray to God that people will still remember this.


So, since I am no longer in office, I can do unpopular things.


I told the secretary of the interior, the head of your development program, that I was aghast to find out that we still need to raise $10 million to finish this place. And Speaker Boehner and I have already volunteered to do a bipartisan event in Washington.

Let's get this show on the road. Let's roll. Thank you and God bless you.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at Dedication of Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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