Starting at 8:46 a.m. on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 the United States was attacked on its own soil by a terrorist enemy force. The terrorists hijacked and used commercial aircraft, filled with our fellow citizens, as flying missiles to strike the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Northern Virginia. A 4th hijacked aircraft, United Flight 93, was more than likely headed to strike the White House or the U.S. Capitol Building. Remarkably, the brave passengers of this flight sacrificed themselves to stop the terrorists, who then crashed the plane in the fields of Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Tragically, nearly 3000 innocent, men, women and children were callously murdered on this day eight years ago. This includes more than 450 first responders from the Port Authority Police Department, the New York City Police Department, the New York City Fire Department, as well as officers and agents from other law enforcement and public safety agencies, who lost their lives as they strived to help others. Each one of these victims represents a family devastated by the loss of a loved one. Each name symbolizes a parent deprived of a son or daughter, a spouse deprived of a partner, or a child deprived of a parent.
Like the attack on Pearl Harbor, the attacks of September 11th served as a wake-up call to the United States. No longer was our homeland immune from enemy attack, no longer could we afford the luxury of believing that “it could never happen here.”
On that horrible morning, it was clear that protecting our homeland and preventing another terrorist attack would require a fundamental change in our operations and a unprecedented level cooperation of between federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies.
To date, we have succeeded. Our homeland has been secure and our citizens protected. It is my firm belief that the unwavering commitment and dedication shown by state, local and tribal law enforcement officers each and every day is the essential component underlying our success. I applaud each of you for your individual and collective efforts. However, we must remain vigilant, because the enemy still exists and the threat still remains.
On the anniversary of this tragic day, I urge each of you to take time to remember all of the innocent people died and the loved ones they left behind. We must never forget the valor and heroism of the men and women of law enforcement who responded so bravely and sacrificed themselves so that others might live.