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STATE OF THE UNION
Fifteen Years On, Remembering September 11; Interview with Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson; Remembrance Ceremony at Ground Zero; Interview With Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton; President Barack Obama Speaks at the Pentagon. Aired 8:30-10a ET
Aired September 11, 2016 - 08:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning and welcome to a special edition of CNN's STATE OF THE UNION as we reflect and remember on the 15th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. There are memorials about to get under way in three cities. In New York, where over 2,753 people were slaughtered after two planes hijacked by Islamist terrorists crashed into the World Trade Center Twin Towers, just outside -- Washington at the Pentagon where 184 people were killed when another plane hit that location, and then in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the 40 passengers and crew of Flight 93 lost their lives, but in doing so heroically thwarted the crash of that plane into the White House or The Capitol.
President Obama is currently inside the White House where he will observe a moment of silence marking the moment that the first plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center before moving to the memorial ceremony at the Pentagon across the river where he will speak. Donald Trump appeared alongside Rudy Giuliani at Ground Zero this morning. He has plans to visit firehouse later today. Hillary Clinton who was New York senator on 9/11 is also at the site of the attacks. She spoke exclusively to my colleague, Chris Cuomo, about visiting Ground Zero the day after the towers fell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I went the next day, Chuck Schumer and I. We were one of the very few planes in the sky that day, the 12th, and we landed at LaGuardia. We were on a plane. We took a helicopter. And we went over, circled the burning pile. And when we landed, we met up with the governor and the mayor and went walking toward Ground Zero. And as we moved further south and we saw this curtain of black smoke that was stretched across the island basically, occasionally it would be broken by a firefighter coming out. I remember one image so indelibly, dragging his axe. And it was as close to a depiction of hell that I have ever personally seen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: We're going to bring you a lot more of that interview with Hillary Clinton about 9/11, terrorism and about her plans for foreign policy. But right now, as families and officials gather at Ground Zero, let's go to New York where security is tight on this 15th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on American history. In the audience is Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. He joined me just moments ago from that memorial.
TAPPER: Secretary Johnson, thank you so much for joining us.
JEH JOHNSON, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Thanks for having me on, Jake.
TAPPER: So, I have to begin with the threat level facing the United States today. Are we on a heightened state of alert?
JOHNSON: I would characterize it this way, Jake. We are on a constant state of alert against not only the terrorist-directed attack of the 9/11 type but also terrorist-inspired attacks. The so-called lone wolf, the home-grown violent extremist of the type we've seen in San Bernardino and Orlando. We are in a relatively new environment now where we have got to be concerned about the traditional threat as well as this new threat where Al Qaeda and ISIL can literally reach into our homeland through the Internet, through social media to recruit and inspire people here, which makes for more complex environment involving law enforcement, our intelligence community and our homeland security people working hard to deal with it.
TAPPER: Do you think that that new threat environment means that we are not safer today than we were 15 years ago?
JOHNSON: Good question. We are safer when it comes to the 9/11-style attack. Our government has become pretty good at detecting overseas' plots against the homeland. Our intelligence community, our law enforcement community are pretty good now at connecting those types of dots. But we have got this new environment and new threat which we just talked about, which makes it harder. And we're seeing now attacks in Orlando and San Bernardino that we've got to protect against, which is why I continue to talk about public vigilance, public awareness, the need to build bridges to communities that we know ISIL and A.Q. are trying to recruit from
[08:35:16] within. So it's a new environment. This is a new phenomenon. And so the answer to your question is really a mixed one. We have -- we're better now at detecting the 9/11-style attack. But it's more challenging with this new environment that we are in.
TAPPER: Because I've noticed President Obama has a new construct when describing how safe we are. It used to be that that he would say we are safer than we were six years ago, seven years ago, whatever. Now he says we're safer than we would be if we weren't doing what we're doing. It's almost an acknowledgement of the idea that, because of this lone wolf threat, we really have no idea how safe we are.
JOHNSON: Jake, since I have been in national security, beginning in 2009, we have made significant progress in degrading Al Qaeda's ability to attack our homeland, through our efforts of the U.S. military, our intelligence community. But there is this new phenomenon now of the terrorist-inspired attack, the lone wolf, and that's the thing that presents the challenge most directly from -- for our homeland. It's, frankly, the thing that keeps me up at night. And it requires a whole of government response.
TAPPER: Secretary Johnson, you were in New York city on 9/11. Tell us about that day for you.
JOHNSON: Well, 9/11 happens to be my birthday, 9/11 2001 was my -- 44th birthday. And I was a private citizen. I had left the Pentagon nine months before. I was General Counsel of the Air Force in the Clinton years. September 11th, 2001, I commuted into Manhattan to work. I was a lawyer in private practice. And from my office window in Midtown Manhattan, I pretty much observed the whole thing and like a lot of New Yorkers, a lot of Americans, I wanted to do something. And so I have spent the last seven and a half, close to eight years now trying to do exactly that.
TAPPER: When you say you saw it, what do you mean? Do you mean -- did you see people jumping from the buildings? I mean, how close, how vivid was it for you?
JOHNSON: I looked out my office window on 6th and 51st street. First thing I saw was the smoke billowing out of the first tower against the backdrop of that beautiful blue sky. And then at some point I looked up and I saw the explosion, the second plane hitting. I was going back and forth between watching it visually out the window and looking at it on TV. And then the thing I'll never forget was to watch that first tower collapse. For those of us in New York, the twin towers had been a permanent fixture on the sky scape, the landscape for almost 40 years then. To see that first tower collapse, it was almost a moment where my mind could not believe what my eyes were seeing. I kept wanting to see that tower emerge from the smoke and the dust and, of course, that never happened. And it's a memory, frankly, that's burned into my mind. I'll never forget it.
TAPPER: Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson at Ground Zero for us today. Thank you so much Mr. Secretary, we appreciate it.
JOHNSON: Thanks for having me, Jake.
TAPPER: That was the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.
And right now, we are watching live pictures from Ground Zero where the 9/11 remembrance ceremony is under way.
Joining me now here in studio, John King, CNN anchor of "INSIDE POLITICS," who was covering the White House for CNN on 9/11, Mary Matalin, who is a Counselor to Vice President Dick Cheney that horrible day, Farah Pandith who worked for both presidents Bush and Obama working to improve relations with Muslims around the world and Andy Card, former Chief of Staff to George W. Bush who first told the then-president about the attacks. And thanks one and all for being here, I know this is a heavy day and to have to talk about it in front of a lot of people -- is challenging, so thanks ahead of time for that. We have all seen the picture of you telling president bush, we're under attack. I guess one thing I would really be curious in knowing is, what it felt like to be delivering that message.
ANDY CARD, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I knew the message I was delivering was a very rare message to deliver to a president. I knew he was in a setting that was a very rare setting to hear a message like that but I did think about the words that I would say. He did know or he had been told that -- it appears a small twin- engine prop plane crashed into one of the towers at the World Trade Center in New York City. That's what I knew that he knew before he walked into that classroom. I was then told it wasn't a small twin- engine prop plane, it was a commercial jet-liner. And then another plane hit the other tower at the World Trade Center. I stood at the door, I passed the tests
[08:40:16] the chiefs of staff have all the time. Does the president need to know, obviously, yes. I made a decision to pass on two facts and made one obvious editorial comment. And when it was appropriate, I said a second plane hit the second tower. America is under attack. I knew that those words were something the president did not want to hear. But I also knew that he was the president and he would be thinking about his obligation to preserve, protect and defend, and the responsibility was his, and he could not meet that responsibility without other people keeping their oaths of office, to follow the command of the Commander-in-Chief. So I knew he was recognizing the responsibility and accepting the phenomenal burden to protect us.
TAPPER: Right now, -- on the right side of your screen you are seeing the 9/11 memorial ceremony at Ground Zero. That flag, of course, is the one that had been recovered from Ground Zero. And it is being treated with a great deal of reverence right now, as you can see. Mary, let me go to you. You were with Vice President Cheney that day. He was at the White House and he immediately had to go to a location and try to figure out what was going on.
MARY MATALIN, FORMER COUNSELOR TO VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: He didn't immediately have to go. He was immediately picked up and carried out. Listening to Andy recount the -- calmness and the ability with which he delivered that message to the president reminds me, gives me a flashback to that day of feeling not scared but comforted that we had a chief of staff who would -- that it is very difficult, what he just described so calmly, and a vice president and a president who knew how to work together. And a secretary of state and -- all the chain of command had had previous experience with each other. And it was comforting because, as we'll certainly recount today, there is a fog of war. That's a real thing. John would tell you, he was there.
TAPPER: John, you were at the White House. I remember, I went down to the mall because there were all these reports, nobody knew what was going on. There was a report that the mall was on fire. It was actually, obviously the Pentagon. And as I was riding my bike back a policeman ran over to me and said, get out of here, the fourth plane or a plane is headed for the White House. And you were there. JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDNET: I think Secretary Johnson put it just perfectly. Your mind could not believe what your eyes were seeing or your mind couldn't believe the questions you were having to ask and deal with throughout that day. I was arriving at the White House. I was a little late for work that day. It was a beautiful morning, it was just crisp, clear, spectacular September morning and I was coming through the gates at the north lawn when the secret service was trying to shut the building down. And they only let me through because of my experience and they knew me. I said I have to talk to my people. And I remember vividly, you forget so much when you do something for a long time, the young staffers running out. The secret service was screaming "get out, get out" --
MATALIN: Run for your life.
KING: Run for your life. They thought the plane was coming for the White House. And some of the young women working in the administration just because of the shoes -- they were running out of their shoes. Their shoes were staying on the path as they were running into Lafayette Park. And we thought the plane was coming for the White House. I remember after a short time you could see the smoke starting to rise. If you looked down from the White House, from Lafayette Park and the White House here, you could see the smoke coming up and then you were starting to get messages that that was the Pentagon.
TAPPER: Let's take a moment and listen to this.
[08:45:16] The Brooklyn Youth Chorus, performing. And that flag, as you might recall, was recovered in the ashes of the twin towers. It was stitched together and now lives at the 9/11 memorial. We are anticipating a moment of silence in about 30 seconds that moment will commemorate the first plane, American Airlines Flight 11 traveling from Boston to Los Angeles, striking the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Bells will toll throughout the city of New York as we remember the 2,977 people killed in New York City, Washington D.C., and in a field outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JERRY D'AMADEO (ph): Good morning. My name is Jerry D'Amadeo. My dad Vincent D'Amadeo worked in the North Tower. Remembering back to the horrible day 15 years ago that changed my life, I was 10 years old. My brothers were 8, 7 and 5. Today I am proud to be here to memorialize my father. This is the place that gives me a chance to think about beautiful memories, like Christmas Eve when dad took my brothers and I to work to give my mom a break. On 9/11, the nation came together. People really tried to help us. I spent endless summers at a camp for kids who lost family members on 9/11. --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: The beginning of the ceremony commemorating the victims of 9/11, all 2,977, has begun after the first moment of silence. I want to bring in my panel for one second. And Farah Pandith, you were in Boston the day of 9/11, that horrible day one of the planes obviously leaving from Boston, American Airlines Flight 11, which we just commemorated. You saw that day as something of a call to service.
FARAH PANDITH, ADJUNCT SENIOR FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: It was. It was a call to service. I remember I was in one financial center. Which if you look out the windows, you can see Logan Airport. And I remember looking out on that beautiful blue sky and thinking as I looked at the airport, we were trying to get news in, and thinking we had just heard about a terrorist organization. We weren't quite sure what was going on. And I remember thinking that if this group uses the name of Islam in any way -- I just remember the sinking feeling. But I walked into my boss's office and said I am an American and a proud Muslim. And you can be both and I need to serve. It was my call to action. That's how I came to Washington.
TAPPER: I want to bring in right now Monsignor John Delendick who was there that morning.
Many Americans of course will pray this morning as we relive the horrifying events of that day. Men of Faith of course as we all know were among the first responders who were on the scene at the World Trade Center. In fact, the very first victim of the attacks was Father Mychal Judge, fire department chaplain who was administering last rites to the dying when he was hit in the head with debris and killed. The photo of the father being carried out by firefighters is an iconic image from that day. His fellow FDNY chaplain, Monsignor John Delendick, was there when the towers fell killing 343 -- 343 New York City firefighters. And the Monsignor joins me now from New York City. Thank you so much for joining me, sir. Take us back to 9/11. Your pager went off, telling you that a plane had crashed into one of the towers. Where were you? What did you think? What did you do?
MONSIGNOR JOHN DELENDICK, CHAPLAIN FIRE DEPARTMENT NEW YORK: I just completed saying mass that morning. And like you said,
[08:50:16] the pager went off and said a plane crashed into the tower. My first reaction was it was a small plane. The Hudson River is a route for the small planes. Then I turned on the TV and I saw that the flames out of that first building. And I immediately called operations center and told them I was responding to the Trade Center. I got in my car, and as I was on the other side of the river, on the Brooklyn side, I saw the second plane. It was very low. -- And moving very fast. And -- but I didn't see it hit. And I got through the tunnel. And went to the command post, which is on at that point to West Street, opposite the two towers
TAPPER: And then you saw the second plane approaching the World Trade Center. -- Right?
DELENDICK: That's correct.
TAPPER: And you realized that it was not doing what you thought it might be doing.
DELENDICK: Right. In fact, I was stupidly thinking, you know, this pilot went down to take a look. But obviously that was not the case. We learned soon afterwards it was a terrorist attack. TAPPER: You saw the horrible images of people desperate. Jumping from the towers because one can only imagine what was going through their heads about the hell below being preferable to the hell where they were. What -- I can't even imagine what it was like. I get -- I have a tough time talking about it. What was it like for you seeing it?
DELENDICK: Well, when we -- first saw it, it's so high. I really didn't comprehend it yet. It was -- I thought it was debris at first. Then I saw arms and legs wave and I said, oh, man, those are people, you know. I turned towards a firefighter friend of mine, a captain, and I said to him, how can they do this? How can they jump? And this captain had gone through a couple of years of terrible burn therapy. And he came back to the job. And he said, they had a choice, to die either by fire -- and that's a terrible fire to die in -- or die, as he put it, die clean by jumping out the windows.
TAPPER: When the second building was coming down you were running to the river. A police officer stopped you. Tell us about that.
DELENDICK: Well, I was running along on VC street towards the river away from the tower. And this police officer came up next to me. And running with me, he said, Father, could you hear my confession? So I told him that -- I said -- this is an act of war and so I'm going to give everyone general absolution, which I did. General absolution in the Catholic Church is forgiving all at one time. And so I -- did do it at that point. I did meet this police officer later. He is a police inspector. And I had lunch with him at the Staten Island Landfill where the -- all the debris was taken and sifted looking for more pieces of bodies.
TAPPER: And you would start taking boat rides to Ground Zero about a week after 9/11, and you were with families of firefighters whose loved ones were missing. Tell us about them and tell us about how they're doing now 15 years later.
DELENDICK: OK. Going on the boat was -- it was quite a thing. They were very -- I don't want to say upbeat when they were going. A lot of them were talking about how resourceful their husbands, their fathers were, that they had a lot of rescue things in their pockets. They said they'll get out of this. And when we got to the site, we gather on the corner of Liberty and West Street, and they just looked at the rubble, the immensity of it. -- That realization hit them that their loved ones were lost. We were then -- answered questions. I had firefighters with us who would answer questions. They would say where was the North Tower? Where was the South Tower? Where was the hotel? And they would get their questions answered, and I would stop everything. And I said listen, now I want you to take a minute and I want you to talk to your loved ones in your heart. Tell them you're here. Tell them you love them. And then be quiet and listen. Let them speak back to you. Let them tell you they're all right, they're safe, and they're home with their father in heaven. Coming back on the boat, we had a number of counsels with
[08:55:16] us. They were certainly needed at that point. I would walk around and I would find people who were sitting by themselves. I would sit next to them and speak to them and -- try to comfort them. Now, you just asked me too what are they -- how are they now. I do see a number of people now. I don't see all of them anymore. But they are -- they are doing reasonably well, you know. They have moved on. But they haven't forgotten anything. They still have a place in their heart, you know, for the husbands or their father, you know. But some still need counselling. Some need a lot of help.
TAPPER: I remember in those days and weeks after that horrific day, the hope that there were firefighters under the rubble, the false reports on occasion of the discovery of firefighters still alive and obviously they were tragically not true. 343 firefighters killed that day. Father, one last question, what are you planning to say at the mass you are giving at the firehouse later today?
DELENDICK: OK. Well, -- it's a memorial mass. We do it every year on 9/11 at Lot 131 in Red Hook. Today I am -- I'm just -- I'm trying to think of the homily. I have my homily already. But it's -- again, I am going to be talking about this is the year of mercy. St. Francis had announced. And I am going to talk about our merciful God, who took care of those who were lost at 9/11. That he has reached out his hands. A lot of the parents or husbands or wives asked me after 9/11, my husband hasn't gone to mass in a long time, or my son hasn't gone in a long time. You know, can they go to heaven? I said, of course. They were doing God's work that day. They were saving other people. Do you think we have a God, you know, who would condemn anyone, who was doing his work? No. I said he is with them. He's with them now. And he treats each as an individual, -- and you know, I firmly believe they're with him in paradise. And that would comfort the parents very much.
TAPPER: Monsignor John Delendick, it's been an honor to have you here this morning. Thank you so much, sir, and God bless you.
DELENDICK: Thank you.
TAPPER: Let's bring back our panel. -- And John, it was -- I'm just reminded of all these memories flooding back. But I had forgotten about the false reports of the discoveries of firefighters until the Monsignor reminded me of all the families of the firefighters that still held out hope.
KING: If that conversation doesn't make you proud to be an American, nothing will. I hate to be -- go off track here a little bit but the emotions do come back when you listen to something like that. And you remember -- I remember the secret service -- uniformed secret service agents ordering us to leave the White House grounds and then surrounded the building, then stood there. And we were in Lafayette Park watching and thinking you know if there is a plane coming you are going to die. But that was their job and that's what they did.
And Monsignor is a hero -- I mean he is a hero and those who are gone are heroes but we should remember that those who are still here who were part of that, wherever they were, were heroes. -- And to Mary's point, earlier what we were talking about. I mean, it was just a day of disbelief. You know, I had covered the White House for a long time. I have been in this town for a long time. Where is the president, where is the vice president, who is in charge of the country? Who is calling the shots? Is it safe for the president to come back to Washington?
You were asking questions that you'd never thought. You couldn't conceive of asking.
And in the middle of that, as a personal note, in the middle of that I had two young kids in elementary school. You know, where are they? What did they do? What do they know? Where are they? Are they safe? And you're trying to juggle all this. I worked with a great team at the White House. They're my heroes. You know the producers and the cameramen. I remember -- you know Jay McMichael, one of our photo journalists, Mike Bannigan (ph) and another one who has left for another network. Making sure before -- we were getting kicked out and literally debating with the secret service until they could make sure the cameras were locked in. So think about that. So that we would have a live shot of the White House if the plane hit. But we were having these conversations. And then -- my day was spent trying to find her. We knew where he was. You know we knew where he was -- and the president had several stops. -- They didn't think it was safe to bring the president back to Washington D.C. Think about that.
TAPPER: Yes I know it was remarkable.
KING: And they were rushing members of Congress -- we were find out more later the details here -- out into the hinterlands to get them out of Washington. Remarkable.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was looking for me because he thought I was going to leak to him.
TAPPER: We're live right now for a special edition of CNN's STATE OF THE UNION, as families and friends of the 2,977 people killed on this day 15 years ago read the names of those whom we lost.
Certainly, the nation will pause to remember the moment that the second plane hijacked by Islamist terrorists hit the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Meanwhile, President Obama currently en route to the Pentagon for the memorial ceremony at the site where that third plane struck.
Later this hour, bells will toll in a field outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where United Flight 93 crashed after its passengers and crew are believed to have taken on the terrorists and forced them to fly the plane into the ground, instead of Washington, D.C., and either the Capitol or the White House.
At Ground Zero, politicians, including former New York City Mayors Michael Bloomberg and Rudy Giuliani, who was accompanied by Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton, who was a New York senator on 9/11, was there as well. You will hear from her shortly about her memories of that day.
But, right now, let me go to the White House, where my colleague Suzanne Malveaux is there, as President Obama is -- has either left for the Pentagon or is preparing to do so -- Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Jake.
Well, yes, he is preparing to leave. And this morning, what they decided to do was to really have that moment of silence to observe that quietly and privately inside of the residence as a family. And then later this morning, as you noted, the president will make his way to the Pentagon, where he will deliver some remarks.
And if you just take a look, Jake, at what he has said before in the weekly address to the American people, you get a pretty good sense of what he is going to say today. And that is two things. The first theme is, is that a lot has changed over the last 15 years.
He will talk about the fact that the top al Qaeda leaders responsible for the 9/11 attacks have been killed. He will also talk about the fact that Osama bin Laden has been brought to justice and that the nature of terrorism in and of itself has changed, as we see with Orlando, as well as San Bernardino and Boston and other terrorist attacks.
And he will talk about the need to confront al Qaeda and ISIL, that those are the things that have changed.
But then he will talk about the things that have not changed. And he is going to talking about the values of the American people, that we respect diversity, that we treat everyone equally, no matter race or faith or gender, those type of things, and that we will never be afraid, we will never allow ourselves to be afraid and to allow the terrorists to win, and that those are the kinds of things -- you can see it as either purely patriotic or political, but those are the kinds of things that the president is going to emphasize, that that is the legacy of 9/11 -- Jake.
TAPPER: Suzanne Malveaux at the White House, thank you.
Let's listen live at Ground Zero, where the ceremony will take a moment to pause to mark the moment that United Airlines Flight 175 hit the South Tower of the World Trade Center.
Let's listen in.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Canfield...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can -- I'm sorry.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Canfield D. Boone.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mary Jane Booth.
TAPPER: That was a moment of silence commemorating the moment that United Airlines Flight 175, traveling from Boston to Los Angeles, struck the South Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.
Today, of course, we think not only of those who lost their lives in the attacks, but their families who survived and the fearless first- responders and volunteers who worked on the pile for weeks, for months, breathing in what turned out to be toxic air left behind after the towers collapsed, trying to find any evidence of the lives lost.
We recall the indelible moments in the aftermath of the attacks, such as this one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 2001)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want you all to know that America today -- America today is on bended knee in prayer for the people whose lives were lost here, for the workers who work here, for the families who mourn.
This nation stands with the good people of New York City and New Jersey and Connecticut, as we mourn the loss of thousands of our citizens.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can't hear you!
BUSH: I can hear you.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BUSH: I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people...
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BUSH: And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
CROWD: USA! USA! USA!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: With President Bush that day at Ground Zero was Hillary Clinton, who was at the time a U.S. senator representing the state of New York on 9/11.
Clinton was at Ground Zero today as well, remembering that horrific day.
My colleague Chris Cuomo sat down with her for an exclusive interview on Friday evening. And we should just point out this was before she made comments at a fund-raiser that have proved to be controversial.
This is before that. The interview focused on foreign policy and 9/11 and her memories from that day. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Remind people where you were on 9/11 and what your earliest memory is of that day.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Well, I was in Washington, had been in New York the day before, but had gone back because the Senate was going to be in session.
And I had left my house on the way to a Senate meeting that morning. When I got the news about the first plane, nobody knew what to make of it. I'm on the phone desperately trying to figure out what people knew.
I got to the Senate. And by the time I got there, the Senate was being evacuated, Senate buildings, the Capitol itself. So, I gathered up my senior staff, and we were just looking at each other with such total pain and confusion.
And we then, of course, learned about the second plane. We learned about what was happening in New York, got to a TV as quickly as possible to begin monitoring it.
It was just a sickening experience, Chris. And I went the next day. Chuck Schumer and I, we were one of the very few planes in the sky that day, the 12th. And we landed at La Guardia. We were on a FEMA plane. And we took a helicopter.
And we went over, circled the burning pile. And when we landed, we met up with the governor and the mayor and went walking toward Ground Zero. And as we moved further south and we saw this curtain of black smoke that was stretched across the island, basically, occasionally, it would be broken by a firefighter coming out.
I remember one image so indelibly, you know, dragging his axe. And it was as close to a depiction of hell that I have ever personally seen.
There is a lot that I remember from those early days and from all the days after, because, as an elected official, I felt such a responsibility to reach out and help everyone who had been affected by this terrible attack. There weren't that many survivors.
The ones who did survive were grievously injured. The loss of life was overwhelming. I went, like so many others, to the armory and the piers, looking to see what was happening, how people were reacting. But it was also, you know, my job and the job of other elected officials to get our city and our state and our country what we needed.
So, I went back that night. And Chuck and I had been at a big meeting with all of the local, state, federal officials, when we got word, just shockingly, that the White House had sent up a request for $20 billion, because, of course, the Pentagon had been hit.
[09:10:12] We were going to have to immediately start hardening our security. And there wasn't one penny for New York. And Chuck was trying to find his family. He hadn't seen his wife and children.
I got the last train out of Penn Station and got to Washington in the early morning, and went immediately home, changed, showered, got to the Senate, where I began talking with my colleagues about what I had seen and what we were going to need in order to rebuild.
And it was a moment of great national unity and resolution. The late senator from West Virginia was my first stop. He had just taken back the Appropriations Committee. And I told him: "Senator, I need your help."
It's been a terrible 24 hours actually seeing on a large scale what we could only see on our TVs.
He said, "What do you need?"
And I said, "Well, we need $20 billion for New York too."
And he said, "Well, consider me the third senator from New York."
And then later that day, Chuck and I went with the two senators from Virginia to the White House. And it was just the four of us, plus President Bush and his top officials.
And we were describing what we had seen. This was the day before he himself went. And President Bush said, "What do you need?"
And we said, "We need $20 billion."
He said, "You have got it."
And he meant it. And there were a lot of efforts to undo that pledge, starting almost immediately. But we were able to count on him, and it meant a lot to help the families, the victims, the downtown, everything that needed to be rebuilt and give people hope again.
It did become very personal for me. I saw so many problems that others weren't yet aware of because I was listening and watching. And one of the things was what was happening to, you know, the people in the neighborhoods and particularly the people working on the pile, because it was clear they were being affected by this toxic brew of what had been bombed by the planes and was in the air.
And, unfortunately, the administration kept saying, no, there is no evidence of that.
Well, you could see the evidence. You could smell it. You could taste the evidence. So, I became very passionate about helping everyone who -- whose own health was going to be damaged because they had put themselves out to help.
And when I met the families of the injured, you know, profoundly burned, in comas, induced comas for months, the whole bottom half of a young woman's body pulverized by being hit with some piece from the plane, recently engaged, looking forward to somehow figuring out how she could walk at her wedding.
CUOMO: Her fiance refusing to leave, her begging him not to marry her, to move on with his life, and refusing to leave.
CLINTON: When I went to visit her the first time in the hospital, she was at the old Saint Vincent's Hospital originally.
She was so profoundly injured, beautiful face, long hair, managed, even through all the pain, to display a kind of whimsical, humorous personality. And she -- she desperately wanted to go on with her life, but she feared that she couldn't.
Well, I did everything I could to help her, because I keep thinking, what are we here for? And it's not just, what are here if you're in public service? What are we on this Earth for? What is the purpose?
And I just feel so strongly in part it is to do whatever we can with whatever skills and resources we have to help others. And the need was so great and so, so present in every place we went, people hunting for their relatives.
I was working hard to set up the victims compensation fund and worked closely with Ken Feinberg.
And sometimes, Chris, we would have to -- I would have to send one of my staffers to go knock on a widow's door, because she still, after six months, could not get out of bed.
And I would meet these shattered lives of people, where they were broken, but I saw so many of them strengthen and show such resilience.
So, I felt privileged. You know, whatever I could do was an honor, but it gave me an insight into the human spirit and, I like to think, the spirit of New York and America, that I wish every American could understand, because it's what makes us who we are and how lucky, blessed we are to face terrible tragedies, but to recover, to move forward, to keep thinking about the future.
CUOMO: So, let's talk about the future.
If you take on the responsibility, as commander in chief, president of the United States, your responsibility will be able to deal with that threat that is enduring and perhaps greater than ever before.
Do you think that the next president needs to level with the American people, that words like destroy and defeat ISIS that your opponent loves to use all the time about how quickly it will happen, that it's not the reality, that the reality is, this is generational, the reality is, there is no quick win against ISIS, that this is going to be a very, very long time?
Do you think it's time the American people are told that? CLINTON: I think it is time for a candid, honest conversation about
what we face, because it's not just ISIS.
I actually think that intensifying our efforts against ISIS could lead to their defeat. By that, I mean depriving them of territory, including their headquarters city, Raqqa in Syria, taking back the cities they seized in Iraq.
But that's not the end of the struggle. The struggle is against a violent ideology, a form of violent jihadism that is very much propagated over the Internet, which is attractive, unfortunately, to young men and some young women across the world who are looking for some meaning in their lives and find it in this call to violence and evil.
But there's something about this struggle that really demands more than governments. And that is, we have to protect our country by working with one another. And that most certainly includes the American Muslim community.
What, unfortunately, Donald Trump has done is made our job harder and given a lot of aid and comfort to ISIS operatives, even ISIS officials, who want to create this as some kind of clash of civilization, a religious war. It's not. And we can't let it become that.
CUOMO: But it sounds like strength when he says it. And people, when they're afraid, like and need the idea of a strong leader. What do you say to the supporters of him who resonate with that message?
CLINTON: Well, there's phony strength and there's real strength.
And it's phony strength to not know what you're talking about and to make outrageous statements that will actually make our job harder, no matter how, in the moment, it sounds. Real strength is leveling with the American people and making it clear, we will defeat ISIS -- I do believe that -- but that we have got to make sure that, here at home, we're not opening doors to people who feel that somehow they want to be part of this global movement, because Donald Trump has said it's a war between us and them.
And that's pretty attractive to people. And we're finding more and more, as we look at the profiles of some of the folks who get radicalized and recruited, that there is an element of mental illness in some. There is an element of just total alienation.
We don't have the depth of problems that you see in Europe because we have done a much better job of assimilating people from everywhere. We are a nation of immigrants. And we should be proud of that. It's a great asset.
So, we can't let Trump or anybody of his ilk undermine one of our greatest strengths. So, real strength will come here at home in making sure we work with law enforcement and with schools and with community organizations to help people identify anyone who is being recruited, to try to intervene early, to have the best intelligence, an intelligence surge that will better prepare us to protect ourselves.
That's the hard work that is required. That's the work that the people I was meeting with today from Republican and Democratic administrations know we have to do.
And it's not the loose talk and the bombastic commentary that's going to defeat this enemy. It's the millions of decisions by strong, patriotic Americans and our allies around the world.
CUOMO: So, you have ISIS, North Korea, and Russia. They will all be on the desk in front of the next president of the United States...
CUOMO: ... as emergent situations, urgent situations.
Let's talk quickly about each one.
ISIS. You have said focus on Baghdadi.
CUOMO: And you have also said recently, we will not put troops on the ground in Iraq or in Syria to take and hold land.
Tell us why, because there is a countertheory that you took out bin Laden, it didn't change al Qaeda. You take out Baghdadi. You're not really dealing with the head of a snake. You're dealing with a worm that grows in other directions.
And Syria, as you well know, Secretary, is the heart of the problem. Why not flip it and not worry about the leader of the organization, as much as the home of the problem and get on the ground and make it safe for the people there?
CLINTON: We have to do both. Let me just quickly respond.
I do not think putting American ground troops in Syria to hold territory, to become occupiers, to try to govern people is at all the right strategy.
I support special forces. I support enablers. I support trainers. I want to intensify our air campaign. I don't think it is regularized enough. I want to do everything we can on intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, support our Arab and Kurdish allies, keep working with the Iraqi army, so that they can take back Mosul.
And then we have got to figure out what the day-after strategy is, what do we do, and how do we support a more effective governing structure inside Iraq.
So, I feel very, very committed to depriving ISIS of their so-called caliphate. That's a huge symbolic recruitment message that we should pull from them. I also believe that Baghdadi is a central figure in the promulgation
of this ideology. And it really helped our efforts to organize against bin Laden.
Now, it's true that al Qaeda is not dead, but they are nothing like they were. It's also true that we collected an enormous amount of intelligence in the raid on bin Laden's home. So, we have had some big advantages by using as an organizing principle going after the leader that I think would also work to our benefit with Baghdadi.
CUOMO: North Korea.
CUOMO: There is now word that, not only was this a test, but it could be a sign that they could have a warhead, a small one, in a shorter time frame than had been reasoned -- recently expected.
We remember with Syria the line in the sand that the president drew.
CUOMO: When you look at North Korea, if you were president of the United States, what would be your line in the sand that, if this supposed madman in North Korea gets a weapon, that if he crosses this line, it's no longer just about sanctions?
CLINTON: Oh, I absolutely believe that it has to be made very clear we will not allow North Korea to have a deliverable nuclear weapon, and we will approach this from a number of perspectives.
I have had conversations in the past with the Chinese about North Korea. Up until relatively recently, I think they were under the impression that they could control their neighbor, and they didn't want to crack down because they saw it as a useful card to play. He gets a little crazy, maybe the South Koreans will, you know, move toward them a little bit. He gets a little crazier, maybe they can make some deals with the Japanese about some things they want.
It was a -- it was a strategic calculation. It's not that way anymore. The current leader is unpredictable for both the Chinese and the rest of us. The current leader is clearly intent upon ignoring pressure, advice of any sort coming from anywhere else.
And so we have got to make it clear missile defense is going in as quickly and broadly as possible.
Our message to the North Koreans and everyone else listening, they will not be permitted to acquire a nuclear weapon that has a deliverable capacity on a ballistic missile.
And we have got to start intensifying our discussions with the Chinese, because they can't possibly want this big problem on their doorstep. CUOMO: When they say to you, what does that mean they won't be
allowed to have one?
CLINTON: Well, we're not going to go into all the details. I mean, obviously, that's not something that I have the right to do or the responsibility at this moment to do.
But that will be the policy of my administration, because I don't think we're going to make progress -- I mean, adding additional sanctions and doing it the way that we did, that I led with Iran, did have a big impact, because they worked.
The Chinese have been awfully leaky. You know, the regime lives off of luxury goods and the kind of benefits that they then can use to, you know, reward their loyal followers. We have never been able to fully cut that off.
And so we will do more on sanctions, because that's part of an overall strategy, but that's not enough.
CUOMO: Lastly, Russia, in the news recently. You know, since the attempt at a reset, Russia has never been more rogue and openly oppositional than they are right now.
Your opponent has taken the approach of trying to cotton to Putin. He says he is a strong leader, stronger than the president of the United States.
The reason he says he does this is because, where has being confrontational gotten us with Russia?
What do you make of his strategy about sweet-talking Putin as a way of opening a channel of communication?
CLINTON: Well, I think his ignorance about Russia and Putin are dangerous. In an interview, he didn't even know that Putin had invaded and occupied Crimea.
So, this is just more of his loose talk, his kind of reckless pontificating that really doesn't have any substance to it. I think that, if there are ways to do business with Russia, we should always be open to it.
That's what the reset accomplished. When Putin came back, he came back, I think, with the view that his highest goal had to be to prevent what he considers to be the -- his neighborhood in Eastern and Central Europe all the way to Central Asia from falling under European Union and American influence.
And he has tried to disrupt and interfere with democratic elections, as he has, even in our country, attempted to do with this round of elections. So, he is pretty transparent that he is looking for ways of elevating Russia and himself.
What I most worry about with Trump is that he is conveying several impressions to people around the world that are quite damaging. With respect to Russia and Putin, this romance with Putin, with dictators -- he has praised Saddam Hussein, for example, as well -- send the message that maybe the United States no longer really stands for human rights, for freedom, for human dignity, stands against aggressive behaviors.
That's a terrible message, because that just further encourages leaders who are like Putin, wanting to, you know, do their own version of oppressing their people and reaching out beyond their borders.
Secondly, his very dangerous talk about Muslims, both American-Muslims and international Muslims, makes our job against ISIS, makes our job against terrorism much harder.
And we already know he has done damage. We already know, from experienced intelligence and counterterrorism experts, that leaders within ISIS are rooting for his victory.
Now, you combine a free pass for Putin on aggressive behavior and a welcome by ISIS that his language plays right into their hands and will give them more credibility in saying that this is some kind of civilizational war, we're going to have to undo the damage that he's already done in the campaign after this election and make it very clear, the United States stands by our word, we stand by our friends and allies.
We are willing to work with anybody, including, of course, Putin. I have -- I have had many conversations with Putin. But we're not going to do it by just rolling over and adopting his wish list, which is exactly what Donald Trump has done.
CUOMO: Secretary Clinton, 9/11 is a day that America has a heavy heart.
I appreciate you spending the time with us and reminding people why we have to never forget.
CLINTON: You're absolutely right.
CLINTON: And Chris, I will be down there, again, at the memorial to pay my respects and to, you know, talk with some of the people that I met in those terrible days right after the attack.
CUOMO: To them it will never be over.
CLINTON: It can't be. And it shouldn't be for us either.
TAPPER: Chris Cuomo's interview with former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.
CNN did offer Donald Trump the same opportunity to discuss 9/11 and national security issues on this day, he declined. Let's go live now to the Pentagon where the ceremony at the memorial there is under way. President Obama is there. He's expected to speak there shortly. Let's listen in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, children, brothers, sisters, friends, to remember the warmth of their smiles, the touch of their hands, their last words, the gifts of their lives.
Now help us never forget that it has been your grace which has allowed us the time we were able to share, which has enabled us to hold on to the fondest of memories and provides us moments like this to cherish forever. God, we pause this day to remember, to remember those who first responded, the unsung heroes, civilian and military, emergency services, law enforcement who fought valiantly that day to preserve the countless lives trapped within these walls and those who, over the last 15 years, across the globe, sacrificed their lives defending the freedom our enemies sought and still seek to destroy.
Help us, then, never to forget the examples of courage and fortitude these men and women demonstrated in the face of danger and hardship. Nor to forget the ideals which have defined our nation which they died to defend and which are now the responsibility of every American citizen to uphold.
And now, as we remember, we ask you not to forget us. Allow your will to transform our memorial into a lasting commitment to those whom we have lost, to the nation that you have preserved and to a future defined by the values we hold dear. It is in the strength of your name we pray, amen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, 15 years ago at 9:37 a.m. the Pentagon was attacked. Please join us in observing a moment of silence to remember those who perished.
Ladies and gentlemen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joe Dunford.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Welcome back to the Pentagon shortly when President Obama takes the microphone. That was a moment of silence commemorating the moments when American Airlines Flight 77, travelling from Dulles International Airport in Virginia to Los Angeles struck the Pentagon building in Washington.
I am back with my panel and -- Andy Card, former chief of staff for President George W. Bush. When you heard about the Pentagon being hit, that meant this was a multi-city attack and was maybe not even done. You were on Air Force One with President Bush at the time?
CARD: Well, it continued the fog of war.
I remember we were in the limousine driving from the school in Sarasota to Air Force One, and the president and I were sitting in the back of the limousine. And he is frustrated because he was trying to reach Secretary Rumsfeld. And I am on my cellphone calling back to D.C. And he said, I can't get through to the Pentagon. And it turns out that's when the Pentagon has been hit.
We didn't even know that it had been hit. And so he was just frustrated that he couldn't get Secretary Rumsfeld. And then we get on the plane. We find out about the Pentagon being hit. And it told us that this was not just an attack on New York City, this was going to war, this was a real war, and that the fog of war was real.
We weren't getting good information as quickly as we wanted to get it. And the president -- I was very impressed -- immediately started thinking about the greater burdens. It wasn't, you know, tunnel vision. He had terrific peripheral vision about what was happening.
And he was the one who said, I want to track down President Putin and call him and make sure he knows we're not going to war and that we don't want them to use it to excuse to go to war with us.
TAPPER: Because who were going -- because President Bush was going to raise the military threat level as to what was going on.
CASH: It was being raised literally as we were speaking. And yes. But he was just saying, this -- there is a big consequence here if people miscalculate.
TAPPER: And, Farah, you were talking about how President Bush, to his credit, was thinking about other ramifications after the attack.
PANDITH: This is about a violent ideology that continues to manifest. And it's not just about one attack here in America. And as we have seen over the course of the last 15 years, whether it's attacks in London or Madrid, whether it is in Belgium, or Paris and Boston, it's a global threat.
And over the course of the years after 9/11 you began to see a change in how we thought about the ideological war and impact. And I think it's very important to understand that A.Q. was that -- we could imagine it then as something that we think we understood but we didn't have the imagination to see the events that were going to take place afterwards. So you have the manifestations in different parts of the world.
You now have groups now like ISIS. YOU have other groups that are -- you know, rallied to the call of an us and them. All of these things were put in place in the years after, but what was happening during the Bush administration was, how do we think about the recruitment process? How do we look at the ideological war?
We weren't afraid to look at it then and we shouldn't be afraid to look at it now. The impact of how this ideology has manifested. I remember talking to someone in Tanzania when I was the special representative to Muslim communities in the Obama administration. This is a man who had been through the attacks in 1998 (INAUDIBLE) al Qaeda, attack --
TAPPER: The embassy attacks. Yes.
PANDITH: The embassy attacks in Tanzania. And he said to me, doesn't your country understand that this ideology just isn't about what happened in '98 or what happened in 2001, that we are seeing this all over the world. Are you preparing for that?
And that really struck me. And I think we have to -- this is such a sobering day. This is a day of remembrance. And we have to really think about where we want to be 15 years from now and what we're doing to make sure that that ideology does not recruit more children from around the world.
TAPPER: And, Mary Matalin, when George W. Bush, President Bush went to the mosque on Massachusetts Avenue here and said Islam is peace, that was mocked by a lot of conservatives in retrospect as being politically correct and being squishy. But really it was about exactly what Farah was talking about. Strategy and not wanting more attacks.
MATALIN: Right. But there was intention in saying Islam is a religion of peace. The vice president would -- we all (INAUDIBLE) speeches around, Andy's office would put it in and he would take it out every time because whether or not that is generally true, Islamic extremists that we're talking about, this is not a mission of peace. And there was a lot of crash courses, the vice president knew who it was and only a couple of days before that (INAUDIBLE) had been a murdered in a cave in Afghanistan and Bamiyan statues had gone (INAUDIBLE). So there was a familiarity there. But for the rest of us, we brought in Bernard Lewis, we bought in military strategists. I dare say an infinitesimal percent of Americans knew what a caliphate was at the time.
MATALIN: It was a -- it was a very big learning experience.
And it wasn't that we had an immediate ideological problem with conservatives or how we think of politics today. It was, how do we go after this threat? And we weren't as concerned, we didn't need to be concerned because there wasn't a politicization...
MATALIN: ... of identity politics at the time.
PANDITH: But there was a battlefield war that we were standing up and there was an ideological war that we were preparing ourselves for.
And the separation of both of them are -- you know, is something that we have really think about, Jake, as we think through what we need to be doing next. And I don't think we have stood up the ideological component as fiercely as we really should have, and could have.
And when I think about what Mary just said about trying to make sure that we were -- the greatest strength of our country is the diversity. The greatest strength by the way vis-a-vis Muslims is that we are the most diverse group of Muslims anywhere in the world. And we were standing by the values of our constitution who we are as Americans are bringing the country together. And I think we really need to be doing that again.
TAPPER: And the very challenging thing, also, to cover, John, on 9/11 because it was one side wanted this to be a clash of civilizations, al Qaeda and Islamist terrorist group wanted this to be a clash of civilizations while President Bush his White House administration didn't want to give them the benefit of that being the narrative.
KING: And we have this conversation about the domino effects. What -- everything changed on 9/11 and we're still dealing with some of those issues front and center 15 years later.
But so much else changed. I remember it was midway through the day when we first started to reestablish communications with sources. Remember, everybody was in crisis the mode when the planes were hitting. And then everybody was moving around. They went to a Presidential Emergency Operation Center, the PEOC, down below the White House.
There was not a lot of great communications.
I remember finally, middle of the day, when finally got through to an intelligence source who I deeply trust who said, this is unmistakable. This is Bin Laden, al Qaeda. This is -- there's no other organization that can project at this level. And you start to have those conversations.
And remember, as we talk about the after moments, just to come back to the day a little bit, it was a bit later we learned -- you know, Mary was out in the -- with the vice president. And again we were asking questions about sort of who is in charge? Who is calling the shots minute by minute? It's a remarkable thing. Who is in charge of the United States government in the middle of the terrorist attack? And we learned the vice president had authorized the shoot-down orders. Remember?
MATALIN: That's the president's orders.
KING: The president. I'm not saying it was the vice president. I just mean that they're in a conversation beneath the White House and they're having -- about shooting down planes in the sky. And Norman Mineta was the transportation secretary, grounding all the planes.
I am not taking issue with who issued the orders.
KING: I just mean that the things that were happening on that day when the transportation secretary says, get everything out of the sky. The administration, the president and the vice president authorized shooting down airplanes. It was just a day that was, again, as secretary Johnson said in your interview --
MATALIN: One of the civilian planes was George Herbert Walker Bush was in it. So that was -- that's why I started with the point that I did.
The seamlessness in the fog of war with which the men who had previously worked together and had defense experience, it was -- I am -- I am not being a partisan when I say I cannot think of another team that knew what to do automatically. The vice president knew automatically which were the president's calls to make and which he had to make immediately.
This is not common. May he rest in peace, Al Haig, when President Reagan said I am in charge. There was none of that. It was -- everybody knew what their roles were.
TAPPER: There comes president -- Andy, we'll come back to you in a second. But here comes President Obama. Let's listen in to him.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Love you back. Good morning.
AUDIENCE: Good morning!
OBAMA: Scripture tells us, let not stead fast love and faithfulness forsake you. Write them on the tablet of your heart.
Secretary Carter, Chairman Dunford, outstanding members of our armed forces and most of all survivors of that September day and the families of those we lost, it is a great honor once again to be with you on this day. A day that I know is still difficult but which reveals the love and faithfulness in your hearts and in the heart of our nation.
We remember and we will never forget the nearly 3,000 beautiful lives taken from us so cruelly. Including 184 men, women and children here, the youngest just 3 years old. We honor the courage of those who put themselves in harm's way to save people they never knew.
We come together in prayer and in gratitude for the strength that has fortified us across these 15 years. And we renew the love and the faith that binds us together as one American family.
Fifteen years may seem like a long time, but for the families who lost a piece of their heart that day I imagine it can seem like just yesterday. Perhaps it's the memory of a last kiss given to a spouse or the last good-bye to a mother or father, a sister or a brother. We wonder how their lives might have unfolded, how their dreams might have taken shape.
And I am mindful that no words we offer or deeds we do can ever truly erase the pain of their absence, and that you, the survivors and families of 9/11, your steadfast love and faithfulness has been an inspiration to me and to our entire country. Even as you have mourned, you have summoned the strength to carry on. In the names of those you have lost, you have started scholarships and volunteered in your communities and done your best to be a good neighbor and a good friend and a good citizen. And in your grief and grace you have reminded us that together there is nothing we Americans cannot overcome.
The question before us, as always, is how do we preserve the legacy of those we lost? How do we live up to their example? And how do we keep their spirit alive in our own hearts?
Well, we have seen the answer in a generation of Americans, our men and women in uniform, diplomats, intelligence, homeland security and law enforcement professionals, all who have stepped forward to serve and who have risked and given their lives to keep us safe. Thanks to their extraordinary service, we have dealt devastating blows to al Qaeda. We've delivered justice to Osama bin Laden. We strengthened our homeland security. We've prevented attacks. We've saved lives.
We resolve to continue doing everything in our power to protect this country that we love. And today we once again pay tribute to these patriots, both military and civilian, who serve in our name, including those far away from home in Afghanistan and Iraq. Perhaps most of all we stay true to the spirit of this day by defending not only our country but also our ideals.
Fifteen years into this fight the threat has evolved. With our stronger defenses, terrorists often attack -- attempt attacks on a smaller but still deadly scale. Hateful ideologies urge people in their own country to commit unspeakable violence. We have mourned the loss of innocents from Boston to San Bernardino to Orlando.
Groups like al Qaeda, like ISIL, know that we will never be able -- they will never be able to defeat a nation as great and as strong as America, so instead they try to terrorize, in the hopes that they can stoke enough fear that we turn on each other, that we change who we are or how we live. And that's why it is so important today that we reaffirm our character as a nation, a people drawn from every corner of the world, every color, every religion, every background. Bound by a creed as old as our founding (ph), e pluribus unum. Out of many we are one. For we know that our diversity. Our patchwork heritage, is not a weakness. It is still and always will be one of our greatest strengths.
This is the America that was attacked that September morning. This is the America that we must remain true to. Across our country today, Americans are coming together in service and remembrance.
We run our fingers over the names and memorial benches here at the Pentagon. We walk the hallowed grounds of a Pennsylvania field. We look up at a gleaming tower that pierces the New York City skyline. But in the end the most enduring memorial to those we lost is ensuring the America that we continue to be. That we stay true to ourselves. That we stay true to what's best in us. That we do not let others divide us. As I mark this solemn day with you for the last time as president, I think of Americans whose stories I have been humbled to know these past eight years. Americans who I believe embody the true spirit of 9/11. It's the courage of Welles Crowther, just 24 years old, in the south tower, the man in the red bandana who spent his final moments helping strangers to safety before the towers fell. It's the resilience of the firehouse on 8th avenue, patriots who lost more than a dozen men but who still suit up every day as the pride of midtown. It's the love of a daughter, Payton Wall of New Jersey, whose father in his last moments on the phone from the towers told her, I will always be watching over you.
It's the resolve of those Navy SEALs who made sure justice was finally done, who served, as we must live as a nation getting each other's backs, looking out for each other united, one mission, one team. It's the ultimate sacrifice of men and women who rest for eternity not far from here in general green hills in perfect formation. Americans who gave their lives in faraway places so we could be here today, strong and free and proud.
It's all of us. Every American who gets up each day, lives our lives, carries on. Because, as Americans, we do not give in to fear. We will preserve our freedoms and the way of life that makes us a beacon to the world.
Let us not -- let not, steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you. Write them on the tablet of your heart and how we conduct ourselves as individuals and as a nation. We have the opportunity each and every day to live up to the sacrifice of those heroes that we lost.
May God bless the memory of the loved ones here and across the country, they remain in our hearts today. May he watch over these faithful families and all who protect us. And may God forever bless the United States of America.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
TAPPER: President Obama at the Pentagon. There was a moment of silence in there commemorating the moment that the third plane, America Airlines Flight 77 traveling from Dulles to Los Angeles struck the Pentagon killing 184 men, women and children.
Mary Matalin, we were just talking about the illusion President Obama made to the man with the red bandana. That's a story about a man named Welles Crowther who saved the lives of a number of his colleagues with a red bandana that he used to shelter their faces from the smoke. He was later found dead and his family pieced together who it was.
MATALIN: His daddy gave him a handkerchief when he was little, one for his pocket, a white one and one for his back pocket, the red bandana. One for show and one for blowing. Always said, (INAUDIBLE) this bandana I'm going to change your world with this bandana. And he was covering his own face going up and down the stairs taking people downstairs who were in shock and were so injured.
And Peggy Noonan wrote as she always does, a remarkable column. It puts me in mind of what we have been discussing about the poignancy of these 15 years. Our kids were little. My kids were next to the Pentagon. Those girls are now -- one is going -- starting college, one is graduating college, 15 years is an entire generation.
The millenials now outnumber the baby boomers. And they have grown up not being jaded about this, but they have an entirely different perspective about it. There is a poignancy about these lives living through this different -- what is it? A new normalcy. And that mom who said when Peggy said how did you make this hero, said honesty and integrity. And he wanted to do his part and he went back in. And she felt the forces him behind her after they knew he perished that, I'm OK. I did the right thing.
TAPPER: It's a remarkable story. Peggy Noonan wrote it for the "Wall Street Journal."
It is amazing, Andy Card, former chief of staff to President Bush, that there are people now fighting and dying for this country who have no memories of 9/11. My children have never heard of 9/11, they are too little to know about it yet, and yet, they are growing up in a nation and a world erratically shaped by it.
CARD: Well, the world did change. Of course people who weren't born on 9/11 don't know the world changed, but the world did change. And it's important for those of us who recognize what happened and the need for change and that it's a continuing challenge. This is not just yesterday. It's also today and it will unfortunately be tomorrow.
But, for me, there was a moment that became very convicting. And it was as the president had finished a long day in New York City, where he stood beside a firefighter and told the world they would hear us. And he met with the families of policemen and firemen that were missing down at Ground Zero. And when he walked into the room and he came in in an unexpected way, he just walked into the room. It wasn't like they announced the president walking into the room. And there was tremendous hope. My husband will make it. My son is going to be OK. My daughter knows what to do.
There was tremendous fear. There was anger. There were tears. There were prayers. But as he was getting ready to leave that room, I remember he walks by a woman who happened to be one of the first people he greeted when he walked into the room. But she stood up and she was not very tall. And she looked up to the president in his eyes and she held out her hand and she said, I want you to have this. This is my son's badge. His name is George Howard. Don't ever forget him. And she dropped the badge in the president's hand and everybody has tears streaming down their cheeks.
And I'll never forget what the president said. He said Mrs. Howard, America will forget. They will start to have won. You don't have to worry about me. I will never forget George Howard. That's why we are here today. Because we all promised we would never forget. That badge, badge number 1012, President Bush carried with him the entire rest of his presidency. And even today, he doesn't forget George Howard.
President and Mrs. Bush will attend church services in Dallas and participate in a private prayer and remembrance and he'll head to the Dallas Cowboys home opener against the New York Giants and do memorializing there as well.
And, John, it was interesting to try to watch the country go back to normal...
TAPPER: ... after 9/11. I remember the World Series being a particular --
KING: A pitch.
TAPPER: A pitch. As I recall, it was -- was it the Yankees versus the Diamondbacks? I forgot --
KING: The Arizona Diamondbacks.
TAPPER: Yes. And getting back to normal while also not forgetting a big challenge.
KING: The term new normal (INAUDIBLE) the vice president used in his speech once. I remember the time this became the new normal. And to the point you're making about your kids, they live in a world and we cover a world and we do business in a world that has forever changed. And sometimes you see it. Every day I see something that reminds me of 9/11. It's very different or very the same or you remember a moment. Airport security, our access to public officials. We (ph) used (ph) to walk through the west wing of the White House. A building we both cover. You used to be able to walk in and go pass the Oval Office when you were to see somebody.
Some of the security is necessary. Some things of course were overdone. Culturally to the point of younger people, younger people -- diversity and tolerance, it's instinctive to them. And in older people we have what you were talking about whether it's distrust of Muslims or distrust of each other, or political partisanship.
Remember the first few weeks and months, the country was as united as, I can remember in my years covering politics and then that disintegrated (ph). And Barack Obama, who just spoke at that ceremony would not be president to the United States were it not for the Iraq war. The Iraq war would not have happened were it not been for 9/11. So we can peel this onion in so many ways politically, culturally, sociably (ph) and it's just -- it's -- it's -- it changed.
Think of how it changed the Bush presidency. I will be the president of this hemisphere. I will do comprehensive immigration reform. I will do immigration reform. Instead he became to see himself -- called himself a wartime president. It changed.
The Republican Party today is in a very different place, still in turmoil because of the issues that started that day.
TAPPER: Let's go back to Ground Zero where the ceremony is about to pause to acknowledge the moment that the south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed. It took a mere 10 seconds for the 110 story building to fall to the ground. We will observe the moment of silence.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Big brother Joseph Michael (INAUDIBLE). He was only 43 years old, 15 years are like 15 seconds. The hurt is still there. The hole is still there. You live on through your family. We miss you every day. And everyone tell someone you love them today.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On behalf of our entire family, (INAUDIBLE) and say, my brother, Thomas Francis Swift, Thomas, we love you and we miss you with all our hearts.