Remarks by the Vice President at a Flight 93 18th Anniversary Observance in Shanksville, Pennsylvania
Secretary Bernhardt, distinguished guests, my fellow Americans, and most of all, the families of the heroes who perished here, it is September 11th again. And it is deeply humbling, as Vice President of the United States, to stand before you today, at the Flight 93 National Memorial, as we pause to honor the 40 heroic Americans who were lost in this place 18 years ago.
Today, all across this country, Americans will pause to reflect, remember, and never forget the events of this day 18 years ago in New York City, at the Pentagon, and here, in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where a "common field one day" became a "field of honor forever."
On this most solemn of days, our hearts are also with the families of the 2,753 men and women who lost their lives at the World Trade Center, and the 184 men and women who perished at the Pentagon. The President, just this morning, paid his respects to the fallen, outside the Pentagon.
We gather, as President Trump said earlier today, in his words, "as one American family united by patriotism, bound by destiny, and sustained by faith in Almighty God." (Applause.)
The Bible says, if you owe debts, pay debts; if honor, then honor; if respect, then respect.
And President Trump asked me to be here today to pay a debt of honor to the memory and the families of the 40 passengers and crew members of Flight 93 — men and women who rose up, who fought back, and who met unspeakable evil with selfless heroism and American strength. (Applause.)
America was attacked on September the 11th, but America took the fight back to our enemies on that very same day, not on some foreign battlefield, but right here in the skies above these fields, where the heroes of Flight 93 were forged.
Eighteen years ago today was a beautiful Tuesday morning, when Flight United — United Flight 93 left Newark Airport bound for San Francisco, and carried onboard 40 men and women from all across America, from every walk of life.
At only 20 years of age, Deora Frances Bodley was the youngest person on board. A student at Santa Clara University, she volunteered at her local animal shelter and aspired to be a child psychologist. On September 11th, she was flying home after visiting friends in New Jersey.
Also on board was Edward Porter Felt, an accomplished man with degrees in Colgate and Cornell University, two patents in encryption technology, devoted husband, the father of two daughters — a New Jersey native — was making a last-minute business trip to San Francisco.
Then there was flight attendant, Wanda Anita Green, who had worked for United Airlines for 29 years. A mother of two, a deacon at her church, she earned a real estate license and dreamed of opening her own real estate office after retiring from flying.
And Richard Guadagno — as you just heard — a dedicated public servant, a project manager for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, where he'd worked for 17 years. On September 11th, he was going home after celebrating with his parents, sister, and family, his grandmother's 100th birthday.
A lawyer, a public relations executive, an antique dealer, a World War II veteran — as you've heard so eloquently from this podium already this morning, they were ordinary Americans, but their heroism would inspire the nation.
When they took off at 8:42 a.m., their flight must've seemed just like any other. They had no way of knowing that within four minutes, American Flight 11 would hit the North Tower; within 21 minutes, United Flight 175 would hit the South Tower of the World Trade Center; and within 46 short minutes, their own flight would be hijacked by terrorists determined to strike another attack, this time on our nation's capital.
And they had no way of knowing — those 40 remarkable men and women — that within 81 minutes from takeoff, their lives would be over, they would enter eternity, but not before they had earned a place of honor in the annals of American history and in the hearts of every American. (Applause.)
It was 9:35 in the morning, when the plane diverted toward Washington, D.C., and immediately, the men and women of Flight 93 sprang into action. They began calling their loved ones and soon learned of the attacks that were gripping our nation.
When Tom Burnett's wife told him about the attack on the Pentagon, he replied, "We have to do something." And so they did.
At 9:47 a.m., Jeremy Glick told his wife that the passengers were voting on whether to charge the cockpit. And he later told her that those on board voted to act. And so they did.
Talking with her husband on the phone, flight attendant Sandy Bradshaw uttered words that captured perfectly her and the passengers' clarity of purpose. She said, "Everyone is running to first class. I've got to go. Bye."
And in the midst of the chaos, a young husband and father, a man starting a business career, prayed the Lord's Prayer with an airphone operator and recited a verse from the 23rd Psalm, only then to speak words that would echo the resolve of a nation: "Let's roll."
History records they ran forward. They charged toward the cockpit. At 10:03 a.m., Flight 93 plummeted to the Earth, right here.
In the early days after the attacks, a Pennsylvania State Trooper hung an American flag on an old dragline sitting atop a hill overlooking this crash site. But now, 18 years later, there stands a memorial, and an even more fitting tribute to the courage and sacrifice of that day.
Just not far from here stands a 93-foot-tall Tower of Voices, which today holds eight chimes, each with a different musical note, to symbolize the voices of all of those lost 18 years ago. When played together, the notes form a perfect harmony — just as, in their final moments, the men and women of Flight 93 worked in concert to defend our nation, defend our capital, and defend our way of life. (Applause.)
Here, at this memorial, the names of those 40 men and women are etched in marble. But I want to assure their precious families, they're also carved into the hearts and the memory of the American people. (Applause.)
The Bible tells us that, "The Lord is close to the broken-hearted." And that's our prayer for you this day and every day. And it's our prayer for all of the families all across our nation who meet this day each year to remember a personal loss. We're with you. To the families gathered here: You honor us by your presence, and America stands with you. (Applause.)
The American people will never forget or ever fail to be inspired by the courage of the men and women of Flight 93. We honor them by remembering them, and we honor them by resolving here and now that we will do as they did, each of us, in all of our varied roles, to prevent such evil from ever reaching our shores again.
When Flight 93 went down, the heroes aboard were the first of a new generation of Americans to rise up, as citizen soldiers, in what would come to be known as the Global War on Terror.
After September 11th, the rising generation of the new millennium also answered the call, and recruiting stations across the country had lines around the block. Since this day, 18 years ago, 5.5 million Americans have stepped forward to defend our country by enlisting in the Armed Forces of the United States. And we honor each and every one of them this day. (Applause.)
And we especially honor the memory of the nearly 7,000 other Americans who gave their lives on other fields of battle since this day 18 years ago. To their families looking on, we pledge we will never forget or fail to honor the service and sacrifice of our fallen heroes. (Applause.)
Today we honor those who fell on this hallowed ground. And in honoring them, we also honor every fallen hero since that day. We honor them by remembering their sacrifice. And as President Trump has done from the first day of this administration, we also honor our fallen by ensuring that the men and women serving in our armed forces today have the resources, training, and equipment to accomplish their mission and defend this nation. And this we will always do. (Applause.)
We did not start this war. We did not seek it. But in every year that's passed, our armed forces have taken the fight to the enemy on our terms, on their soil. We have met the evildoers with a resolve and force beyond anything they could have imagined.
Our armed forces took the fight to the terrorists who attacked us in the mountains of Afghanistan. Their mastermind met justice at the hands of Navy Seals in Abbottabad. And our armed forces, just this year, captured the last inch of territory controlled by the barbaric ISIS caliphate. (Applause.)
But the threat of terrorism remains. And I can assure you, under this Commander-in-Chief, our armed forces will never relent until the Earth is purged of the scourge of radical Islamic terrorism. (Applause.)
What the terrorists of 9/11 did not understand is that the American people's love of peace is exceeded only by our resolve to defend our freedom.
The fiery ordeal through which the heroes of Flight 93 passed lit the way for heroes that were to come. And it will inspire generations of Americans for all time.
It is truly a privilege to be with you today here in Shanksville, along with my wife Karen, to honor the memory of the heroes of Flight 93. (Applause.)
I pay tribute as Vice President and as a grateful American. But as I said when we were here two years ago, for us and our family, it's personal.
Seventeen years ago, I was serving in Congress, and my wife and I made a point to bring our three small children here, to this hallowed ground, on a drive back from Washington, D.C. to Indiana. It was less than a year from that terrible day, but we wanted to come here, pay our respects, and make sure that our children saw this place and knew what happened here.
I remember that day like it was yesterday. We didn't find this impressive memorial; we found a plywood wall, painted with the names of the fallen, a timeline listed, and a wooden cross in the field. (Applause.)
With the help of one park ranger, we learned of the sequence of that day. And I remember asking the ranger: If the U.S. Capitol was the target, at what time would the plane have reached the Capitol building? And what she told me I'll never forget. For the time she mentioned, I, along with hundreds of others, was standing near the East Front of the House of Representatives.
As I stand before you today, I say from my heart: I will always believe that I and many others in our nation's capital were able to go home that day and hug our families because of the courage and selflessness of your families, the heroes of Flight 93. (Applause.)
Two years ago, on this occasion, I toured the memorial museum, and there, I took note of one the possessions of a passenger that was recovered at the crash site. Among what was left of what Todd Beamer brought on board was a book entitled, "A Life of Integrity," by Howard Hendricks.
As I looked at the display through the glass, I was struck by the book's title and how perfectly it represented what the men and women of Flight 93 demonstrated on that day 18 years ago.
Shortly thereafter, I purchased a copy of the same edition of that devotional book, and it has flown with me every day since on Air Force Two as a quiet tribute not just to the man, but to all the passengers and crew of Flight 93 for all you've done for us. (Applause.) For what your loved ones did for my little family and countless others in our nation's capital that day, thank you.
When heroes fall, words fail, for "no greater love has a man than this that he should lay down his life for his friends." This then is what the heroes of Flight 93 did. And it's important that we tell their story. I'm grateful that all of you are here today to hear it one more time.
It's important that we tell their stories, because as has already been observed, a whole generation of Americans has come of age with no personal memory of 9/11. So the rest of us, my fellow Americans, must tell the story. We must never forget and never fail to honor the memory of those who were lost here, in New York City, and in Washington, D.C. And this we will do. We will tell their story; we will honor their memory always. (Applause.)
So to the families of the fallen, as President Trump said this morning at the Pentagon, I say now, the memory of your loved ones will never die. They will always be with us. We will always tell their story to future generations.
And as long as this nation endures, Americans will ever be inspired by the faithful and courageous words and deeds of the heroes of Flight 93.
So may God bless our beloved fallen. May God bless and comfort the families gathered here and all those who suffered loss on this day 18 years ago. And may God continue to bless the United States of America with such men and women as the passengers and crew of Flight 93. (Applause.)
Mike Pence, Remarks by the Vice President at a Flight 93 18th Anniversary Observance in Shanksville, Pennsylvania Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/334025