Remarks by President George W. Bush at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania
Transcript of remarks from September 11, 2021 commemorating the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
September 11, 2021
As a nation, our adjustments have been profound. Many Americans struggled to understand why an enemy would hate us with such zeal. The security measures incorporated into our lives are both sources of comfort and reminders of our vulnerability. And we have seen growing evidence that the dangers to our country can come not only across borders, but from violence that gathers within. There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home. But in their disdain for pluralism, in their disregard for human life, in their determination to defile national symbols, they are children of the same foul spirit. And it is our continuing duty to confront them.
After 9/11, millions of brave Americans stepped forward and volunteered to serve in the Armed Forces. The military measures taken over the last 20 years to pursue dangers at their source have led to debate. But one thing is certain: We owe an assurance to all who have fought our nation’s most recent battles. Let me speak directly to veterans and people in uniform: The cause you pursued at the call of duty is the noblest America has to offer. You have shielded your fellow citizens from danger. You have defended the beliefs of your country and advanced the rights of the downtrodden. You have been the face of hope and mercy in dark places. You have been a force for good in the world. Nothing that has followed – nothing – can tarnish your honor or diminish your accomplishments. To you, and to the honored dead, our country is forever grateful. (Applause.)
In the weeks and months following the 9/11 attacks, I was proud to lead an amazing, resilient, united people. When it comes to the unity of America, those days seems distant from our own. A malign force seems at work in our common life that turns every disagreement into an argument, and every argument into a clash of cultures. So much of our politics has become a naked appeal to anger, fear, and resentment. That leaves us worried about our nation and our future together.
I come without explanations or solutions. I can only tell you what I have seen. On America’s day of trial and grief, I saw millions of people instinctively grab for a neighbor’s hand and rally to the cause of one another. That is the America I know. (Applause.)
Twenty years ago, terrorists chose a random group of Americans, on a routine flight, to be collateral damage in a spectacular act of terror. The 33 passengers and 7 crew of Flight 93 could have been any group of citizens selected by fate. In that sense, they stood in for us all.
The terrorists soon discovered that a random group of Americans is an exceptional group of people. Facing an impossible circumstance, they comforted their loved ones by phone, braced each other for action, and defeated the designs of evil.
These Americans were brave, strong, and united in ways that shocked the terrorists – but should not surprise any of us. This is the nation we know. (Applause.) And whenever we need hope and inspiration, we can look to the skies and remember.