I was humbled that the Festivals Committee asked me to provide the remarks at yeterday’s 911 Commemoration. I had hoped we could find someone with a greater connection or greater insight but, at the end of the day, I tried my best. Hopefully, the American Legion and Cub Scout color guards, Homestead band and fire department bell ringing added the substance and gravitas that I could not.
A few people asked afterward for the text of my comments. The facts of 911 were worth reviewing. Here they are:
[GENERAL WELCOME COMMENTS]
It has been 20 years since 911. About ¼ of Americans were not alive on that fateful day. I suspect, for the rest of us, that day is permanently imprinted on our memories. I have more vivid memories of that day than I have of the births of my daughters, my wedding and the deaths of my parents.
But it is worth reviewing what happened.
Terrorists hijacked and crashed four passenger planes, two into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon and one into a field in Pennsylvania/
236 passengers and crew were murdered on those four planes.
Those deaths were horrible by themselves, but even worse was the tragedy on the ground.
All told 2,753 people were murdered at the World Trade Center, 184 at the Pentagon and 40 in Pennsylvania.
Of the 2,977 people who were murdered, 2,605 were U.S. citizens and 372 were citizens of other countries. More than 90 countries lost citizens in the attacks.
The victims ranged in age from 2 to 85, and came from almost every state, including 12 from Wisconsin.
Of those who died, 344 were firefighters and 72 were law enforcement officers. Most of these brave men and women died coming to the scene to save others.
THE TRAGEDY DID NOT STOP WITH THE DEAD.
Almost 10,000 were treated for injuries immediately.
At least 10 pregnancies were lost.
Over 30,000 people were subsequently treated for medical conditions related to 911. About 1,200 people have been diagnosed with cancer caused by the toxins from the World Trade Center. Close to 300 first responders have died from cancer from the toxins, bring the total first responders killed to about 700.
The economy went into a tailspin.
Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were fought at least in part based on the attacks, resulting in the deaths of over 6,700 American service men and women, at least 100,000 allies and hundreds of thousands of others.
A special word about the first responders. They were the heroes of the day. About 700 died as a result, but they helped at least 14,000 vacate the Towers, saved thousands of others in the area and found 27 people in the rubble.
911 was one of the worst days in American history, yet there might might have been three bright spots.
- First, in the days after the attacks, it did not matter if you were liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat. We all were Americans. We need to get back that.
- Second, America learned from these attacks and have prevented countless others since then.
- Third, we recognized the courage of our own first responders.
But those lessons came at a terrible cost.
In remembrance of those who died on 911, including those brave men and women who ran to the danger to save others, and the tragedy that befell their families, I ask you to join me in a moment of prayer or silence.
[MOMENT OF SILENCE, FIRE DEPARTMENT BELL TOLLING, PRESENTATION OF COLORS]
Thank you for coming. [BRIEFLY REITERATE THREE LESSONS]
Finally, it is not enough to just remember those who died. We should remember to say thank you to our own brave service mean and women, our fire fighters and our police officers. And, no matter what, we need to adequately fund those services so they can stay safe while keeping us safe. They do so every day.
I ask you to join me in giving a round of applause to our very own first responders.