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Text: Memorial for Pentagon Victims of Sept. 11 Attacks

Thursday, Oct. 11, 2001

The following is a transcript of remarks by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and President Bush honoring those killed at the Pentagon in the September 11 attacks.

RUMSFELD: We are gathered because of what happened here on September 11, events that bring to mind tragedy but also our gratitude to those who came to assist that day and, afterwards, those we saw every day at the Pentagon site, the guards, police, fire and rescue workers, the defense protective service and the hospitals, the Red Cross, chaplains, the family service professionals and volunteers and so many others.

And yet, our reason for being here today is something else. We're gathered here to remember, to console and to pray: to remember comrades and colleagues, friends and family members, those lost to us on September 11. We remember them as heroes, and we are right to do so. They died because, in the words of justification offered by their attackers, they were Americans.

They died then because of how they lived as free men and women, proud of their freedom, proud of their country and proud of their country's cause, the cause of human freedom.

And they died for another reason, the simple fact that they worked here in this building, the Pentagon. It is seen as a place of power, the locus of command for what has been called the greatest accumulation of military might in history; and yet a might used far differently than the long course of history has usually known.

In the last century, this building existed to oppose two totalitarian regimes that sought to oppress and to rule other nations.

And it is no exaggeration of historical judgment to say that, without this building and those who work here those, two regimes would not have been stopped or thwarted in their oppression of countless millions. But just as those regimes sought to rule and oppress, others in this century seek to do the same by corrupting a noble religion.

Our president has been right to see the similarity and to say that the fault, the evil is the same: It is the will to power, the urge to dominion over others to the point of oppressing them, even to taking thousands of innocent lives or more, and that this oppression makes the terrorist a believer not in the theology of God, but the theology of self and in the whispered words of temptation, ``ye shall be as gods.''

In targeting this place then and those who worked here, the attackers, the evildoers correctly sensed that the opposite of all they were and stood for resided here. Those who worked here, those whom on September 11 died here, whether civilian or in uniform, side by side, they sought not to rule but to serve, they sought not to oppress but to liberate. They worked not to take lives but to protect them and they tried not to preempt God but to see to it his creatures lived as he intended, in the light and dignity of human freedom.

Our first task, then, is to remember the fallen as they were or as they would have wanted to be remembered: living in freedom, blessed by it, proud of it and willing like so many others before them and like so many today, to die for it and to remember them as believers in the heroic idea for which this nation stands and for which this building exists, the idea of service to country and to others.

Beyond all this, their deaths remind us of a new kind of evil, the evil of a threat and menace through which this nation and the world has now been fully awakened because of them. In causing this awakening, then, the terrorists have assured their own destruction. And those we mourn today have, in the moment of their death, assured their own triumph over hate and fear.

For out of this act of terror and the awakening it brings here and across the globe will surely come a victory over terrorism, a victory that one day may save millions from the harm of weapons of mass destruction. And this victory, their victory, we pledge today.

But if we gather here to remember them, we are also here to console. To console those who shared their lives, those who loved them. And yet the irony is that those whom we have come to console have given us the best of all consolations by reminding us not only of the meaning of the deaths, but of the lives of their loved ones.

``He was a hero long before this 11th of September,'' said a friend of one of those we've lost, ``a hero every single day. A hero to his family, to his friends and to his peers.'' A veteran of the Gulf War, hardworking, he showed up at the Pentagon at 3:30 in the morning and then headed home in the early afternoon to be with his children, all of whom he loved dearly, but one of whom he gave very special care and love, because she needs very special care and love. About him and those who served with him, his wife said, ``It is not just when a plane hits the building, they are heroes everyday.''

Heroes every day. We're here to affirm that and to do this on behalf of America, and also to say to those who mourn, who have lost loved ones, known that the heart of America is here today, that it speaks to each one of you words of sympathy, consolation, compassion and love, and all the love that is the heart of America, and the great heart it is, can muster.

Watching and listening today Americans everywhere are saying, I'm sure, I wish I could be there to tell them how sorry we are, how much we grieve and to tell them, too, how thankful we are for those they loved. A Marine captain in trying to explain why there could be no human explanation for a tragedy such as this once said, ``You would think it would break the heart of God.''

We stand today in the midst of tragedy, the mystery of tragedy, yet a mystery that is part of that larger awe and wonder that causes us to bow our head in faith and say of those we mourn, those we have lost, the words of Scripture; ``Lord, now let Thy servants go in peace. Thy Word has been fulfilled.''

To the families and friends of our fallen colleagues and comrades, we extend our deepest sympathy, our condolences and those of the American people. We pray that God will give some share of the peace that now belongs to those we lost, to those who knew and loved them in life. But as we grieve together, we are also thankful; thankful for their lives, thankful for the time we had them with us and proud, too, as proud as they were that they lived their lives as Americans.

We are mindful, too, and resolute that their deaths, like their lives, shall have meaning. That the birthright of human freedom, a birthright that was theirs as Americans and for which they died, will always be ours and our children's and through our efforts and our example one day the birthright of every man, woman and child on earth.


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BUSH: Please be seated.

President and Senator Clinton, thank you all for being here.

We have come here to pay our respects to 125 men and women who died in the service of America. We also remember 64 passengers on a hijacked plane, those men and women, boys and girls who fell into the hands of evildoers and also died here exactly one month ago.

On September 11th, great sorrow came to our country, and from that sorrow has come great resolve.

Today, we are a nation awakened to the evil of terrorism and determined to destroy it. That work began the moment we were attacked, and it will continue until justice is delivered.

Americans are returning, as we must, to the normal pursuits of life.


Americans are returning, as we must, to the normal pursuits of life, but we know that, if you lost a son or daughter here or a husband or wife or mom or dad, life will never again be as it was. The loss was sudden and hard and permanent, so difficult to explain, so difficult to accept: three school children traveling with their teacher; an Army general, a budget analyst who reported to work here for 30 years; a lieutenant commander in the Naval Reserve, who left behind a wife, a four-year-old son and another child on the way.

One life touches so many others. One death can leave sorrow that seems almost unbearable. But to all of you who lost someone here, I want to say: You are not alone. The American people will never forget the cruelty that was done here and in New York and in the sky over Pennsylvania. We will never forget all the innocent people killed by the hatred of a few. We know the loneliness you feel in your loss. The entire nation--the entire nation--shares in your sadness. And we pray for you and your loved ones. And we will always honor their memory.

The hijackers were instruments of evil who died in vain. Behind them is a cult of evil which seeks to harm the innocent and thrives on human suffering. Theirs is the worse kind of cruelty. The cruelty that is fed not weakened by tears. Theirs is the worse kind of violence, pure malice while daring to claim the authority of God. We cannot fully understand the designs and power of evil. It is enough to know that evil, like goodness, exists. And in the terrorists, evil has found a willing servant.

In New York, the terrorists chose as their target a symbol of America's freedom and confidence. Here they struck a symbol of our strength in the world. And the attack on the Pentagon on that day was more symbolic than they knew. It was on another September 11, September 11, 1941, that construction on this building first began.

America was just then awakening to another menace, the Nazi terror in Europe. And on that very night, President Franklin Roosevelt spoke to the nation. The danger, he warned, has long ceased to be a mere possibility. The danger is here now not only from a military enemy, but from an enemy of all law, all liberty, all morality, all religion. For us, too, in the year 2001 an enemy has emerged that rejects every limit of law, morality and religion.

The terrorists have no true home in any country or culture or faith. They dwell in dark corners of earth, and there, we will find them. This week I have called...


This week, I have called the Armed Forces into action. One by one, we are eliminating power centers of a regime that harbors Al Qaeda terrorists. We gave that regime a choice: Turn over the terrorists or face your ruin. They choose unwisely.


The Taliban regime has brought nothing but fear and misery to the people of Afghanistan.

These rulers call themselves holy men, even with their record of drawing money from heroin trafficking. They consider themselves pious and devout, while subjecting women to fierce brutality.

The Taliban has allied itself with murderers and gave them shelter. But today, for Al Qaeda and the Taliban, there is no shelter.


As Americans did 60 years ago, we have entered a struggle of uncertain duration. But now, as then, we can be certain of the outcome, because we have a number of decisive assets.

We have a unified country. We have the patience to fight and win on many fronts: blocking terrorist plans, seizing their funds, arresting their networks, disrupting their communications, opposing their sponsors.

And we have one more great asset in this cause: the brave men and women of the United States military.


BUSH: From my first days in this office, I have felt and seen the strong spirit of the armed forces.

I saw it at Fort Stewart, Georgia, when I first reviewed our troops as commander-in-chief and looked into the faces of proud and determined soldiers.

I saw it in Annapolis on a graduation day; at Camp Pendleton in California; Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo. And I have seen this spirit at the Pentagon before and after the attack on this building.

You've responded to a great emergency with calm and courage. And for that, your country honors you. A commander-in-chief must know--must know--that he can count on the skill and readiness of service men and women at every point in the chain of command. You have given me that confidence, and I give you these commitments.

The wound to this building will not be forgotten, but it will be repaired. Brick by brick, we will quickly rebuild the Pentagon.


In the missions ahead for the military, you will have everything you need--every resource, every weapon...


... every means to assure full victory for the United States and the cause of freedom.


BUSH: And I pledge to you that America will never relent on this war against terror.


There will be times of swift dramatic action. There will be times of steady, quiet progress. Over time, with patience and precision, the terrorists will be pursued. They will be isolated, surrounded, cornered until there is no place to run or hide or rest.


As military and civilian personnel in the Pentagon, you are an important part of the struggle we have entered. You know the risks of your calling, and you have willingly accepted them. You believe in our country, and our country believes in you.


Within sight of this building is Arlington Cemetery, the final resting place of many thousands who died for our country over the generations.

Enemies of America have now added to these graves, and they wish to add more. Unlike our enemies, we value every life and we mourn every loss, yet we're not afraid. Our cause is just and worthy of sacrifice.

Our nation is strong of heart, is firm at purpose, inspired by all the courage that has come before. We will meet our moment, and we will prevail.

May God bless you all.


And may God bless America.

© 2001 The Washington Post Company