Remarks on the second anniversary of September 11, 2001, delivered this morning by Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson in the courtyard of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington.
We gather today to remember and pay tribute with our hearts and our tears to the loved ones, friends, colleagues and fellow Americans who were savagely murdered on this date two years ago.
We are still stunned and bewildered by the depraved fanaticism that planned and executed the slaughter that day of thousands of helpless, unsuspecting innocent lives, and the infliction of excruciatingly painful and unhealable damage on thousands more. The audacity of the attack, the breathtaking scope of the damage inflicted, and the depth and intensity of the inhuman rage that propelled the attackers is simply incomprehensible to us. Each of us that day was in some way a victim of a level and quality of violence that most of us had never even imagined in our lives. And we each suffer today in different ways from those September 11 moments when the ground beneath us trembled and our lives forever changed.
On that day we Americans were forced to recognize that we are inseparably bonded to others in Israel, India, Africa, Indonesia and other countries who have reaped the same bitter harvest of anguish, emptiness and grief sowed by twisted minds that know no emotion but hate, no motive but malevolence, and no goal but destruction. Nearly every day now, we read stories and see photographs of the devastation and cruelty inflicted by terrorists who attack restaurants, hospitals, office buildings, weddings and school buses. Mindless, senseless, cruelty and hate, and irreparable pain and loss.
Remembering and honoring the victims of September 11 is therefore not remotely sufficient. We must engrave their faces and tragically-shortened histories on our hearts and in our souls. We must commit ourselves to the only goal that is worthy of their memories: to eradicate the disease that killed them, wherever it is and however long is takes. Their suffering and deaths must fuel our dedication to stamp out this cancer, and, in doing so, save those we love, and those who come after us, from future September Elevens and the pain, loneliness and helplessness we experienced on that day two years ago and have lived with every day since then.
We can never forget, but we can never even rest until that debt is paid, and September 11 can be remembered not as a beginning of a slide into chaos, but as the beginning of the end of blind, ruthless, random brutality, and the tears of orphaned children, the screams of hideously burned bodies, and the numbing grief that terrorism delivers.
We cannot give up until that goal is attained, whether it comes in our lifetime or not. If we do not persevere, we will be haunted for eternity by the memories of those who were taken from us on September 11. We cannot forget them or let them down.
We do not have to be a president, soldier, attorney general, prosecutor or intelligence agent to wage this battle and win this war. Everyone of us, in little ways, in thoughts and words and spirit, can pull an oar, however small or seemingly slight. Each of us can make a difference. But it will take all of us, in our own individual lives, to lead or somehow, in some way, support the achievement of this goal. If we do not, we will pay a tragic price in our neighborhoods, our schools, and our homes. None of us, no matter where we live, no matter how carefully we live our lives, is immune from terrorism. We will either root it out and extinguish it wherever it may hide, or it will find us and strip us of our safety, happiness and everything we cherish.
But we can succeed if we have the strength, resolution and the willingness to persevere.
In the words of William Faulkner, “Man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.”
We shall decline to accept terrorism in our lives or in the lives of our brothers and sisters in other countries on other continents. We shall fight this terrible, contagious, borderless, boundless disease.
And we shall prevail.