From Scripture, we learn of the miracle of restoration. “You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again. From the depths of the earth you will bring me up again. You will increase my greatness and comfort me again.”
Secretary Hagel, General Dempsey, members of our Armed Forces and most of all, the survivors who bear the wounds of that day and the families of those we lost, it is an honor to be with you here again to remember the tragedy of twelve Septembers ago — to honor the greatness of all who responded and to stand with those who still grieve and to provide them some measure of comfort once more. Together we pause and we pray and we give humble thanks — as families and as a nation — for the strength and the grace that from the depths of our despair has brought us up again, has revived us again, has given us strength to keep on.
We pray for the memory of all those taken from us — nearly 3,000 innocent souls. Our hearts still ache for the futures snatched away, the lives that might have been — the parents who would have known the joy of being grandparents, the fathers and mothers who would have known the pride of a child’s graduation, the sons and daughters who would have grown, maybe married and been blessed with children of their own. Those beautiful boys and girls just beginning to find their way who today would have been teenagers and young men and women looking ahead, imagining the mark they’d make on the world.
They left this Earth. They slipped from our grasp. But it was written, “What the heart has once owned and had, it shall never lose.” What your families lost in the temporal, in the here and now, is now eternal. The pride that you carry in your hearts, the love that will never die, your loved ones’ everlasting place in America’s heart.
We pray for you, their families, who have known the awful depths of loss. And in the quiet moments we have spent together and from the stories that you’ve shared, I’m amazed at the will that you’ve summoned in your lives to lift yourselves up and to carry on, and to live and love and laugh again.
Even more than memorials of stone and water, your lives are the greatest tribute to those that we lost. For their legacy shines on in you — when you smile just like him, when you toss your hair just like her, when you foster scholarships and service projects that bear the name of those we lost and make a better world. When you join the firehouse or you put on the uniform or you devote yourself to a cause greater than yourself, just like they did, that’s a testimony to them. And in your resilience you have taught us all there is no trouble we cannot endure and there is no calamity we cannot overcome.
We pray for all those who have stepped forward in those years of war — diplomats who serve in dangerous posts, as we saw this day last year in Benghazi, intelligence professionals, often unseen and unheralded who protect us in every way — our men and women in uniform who defend this country that we love.
Today we remember not only those who died that September day. We pay solemn tribute to more than 6,700 patriots who have given their full measure since — military and civilians. We see their legacy in the friendships they forged, the attacks they prevented, the innocent lives they saved and in their comrades in Afghanistan who are completing the mission and who by the end of next year will have helped to end this war.
This is the path that we’ve traveled together. These are the wounds that continue to heal. And this is the faith in God and each other that carries us through, that restores us and that we summon once more each time we come to hallowed ground — beside this building or in a Pennsylvania field or where the towers once stood. Here, in such moments of grace, we are renewed. And it is here that we reaffirm the values and virtues that must guide us.
Let us have the strength to face the threats that endure, different though they may be from 12 years ago, so that as long as there are those who would strike our citizens, we will stand vigilant and defend our nation.
Let us have the wisdom to know that while force is at times necessary, force alone cannot build the world we seek. So we recommit to the partnerships and progress that builds mutual respect and deepens trust and allows more people to live in dignity, prosperity and freedom.
Let us have the confidence in the values that make us American, which we must never lose, the shining liberties that make us a beacon of the world; the rich diversity that makes us stronger, the unity and commitment to one another that we sustain on this National Day of Service and Remembrance.
And above all, let us have the courage like the survivors and families here today to carry on, no matter how dark the night or how difficult the day. “You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again. And from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again. You will increase my greatness and you will comfort me again.”
May God bless the memory of those that we lost. May he comfort you and your families and may God bless these United States of America.