John F. Kerry photo

Remarks at the Massachusetts 9/11 Fund Third Anniversary Commemoration in Boston

September 11, 2004

The Scriptures tell us, "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." [Psalms 30]

We come together this morning to remember those we loved and lost, and to continue our mission to honor their lives by how we live our own.

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 man from a tiny town just west of here, reported for work in the World Trade Center. He had just gotten a promotion. He had just married the love of his life. And everyone back home was so proud. On that morning, a gentle priest beloved by his parish boarded United Flight 175 to visit his sister in California. One of his parishioners later said he thought God put him on that plane to give comfort to those on board.

For each of you here time stopped in a way that has made memories of that day three years ago forever fresh, forever painful. I know this because some of you were part of my life before that day, and many of you have become part of it since.

On September 11, 2001, your loved ones and nearly 3,000 others were living out the daily rhythm of life in a nation at peace. And on that morning, in a single moment, they were lost, and our world 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. On that day, we all drew strength from each other.

And that was just the beginning. In the days that followed, we saw an outpouring of love as people here in Massachusetts and across America asked themselves, "What can I do to help?"

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.

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."

And here in Massachusetts, we saw candlelight vigils and prayer services. We saw people standing in line for hours to donate blood. And we saw doctors, rescuers and EMT's hop into their cars on a moment's notice and drive to New York City to help.

So while September 11th was the worst day we have ever seen, it brought out the best in all of us. We will always remember where we were on that day. And we must always remember that we will only defeat those who sought to destroy us by standing together as one America.

I know that for all of you who lost loved ones on September 11th, these last three years have been hard ones. I know that your courage and faith have been tested in ways you never imagined. And in ways that are hard for others to understand. I know you've had times when you've wondered how you were going to make it through – how you were going to make it to the next day, the next week, the next month. But hour after hour, you held on. And hour after hour, you have found hope and comfort and strength by the love of those around you and the quiet grace of God. And for that, we are all grateful.

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 – all of you have given and continue to give meaning to those lives. That's the gift of the elegant and graceful memorial in Boston Garden.

In the years ahead, all of us will complete this mission as we share the lessons of September 11th 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 outshines the darkness of those who hate.

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 those who would harm us, and affirm that freedom will win. It is that spirit which sustains all of you as you continue to rebuild your lives. And it is that spirit which will guide us all as we rebuild those towers – stronger, higher, and more beautiful than ever before. Just like America.

Thank you, may God bless you, and may God bless America.

John F. Kerry, Remarks at the Massachusetts 9/11 Fund Third Anniversary Commemoration in Boston Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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