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CNN Live Event/Special

Moment of Silence for When Flight 175 Struck South Tower; Bidens, Obamas, Clintons Attend 9/11 Memorial in New York; Pentagon Leaders Honor Fallen of September 11th; Condoleezza Rice: We are More Secure Than We Were on 9/11; Aired 9-10a ET

Aired September 11, 2021 - 09:00   ET





DELOUGHERY: David Michael Barkway.

HARGRAVE: Matthew Barnes.

DELOUGHERY: Melissa Rose Barnes.

HARGRAVE: Sheila Patricia Barnes.

DELOUGHERY: Evan Jay Baron.

HARGRAVE: Renee Barrett-Arjune.

DELOUGHERY: Arthur Thaddeus Barry.

HARGRAVE: Diane G. Barry.

DELOUGHERY: Maurice Vincent Barry.

HARGRAVE: Scott D. Bart.

DELOUGHERY: Carlton W. Bartels.

HARGRAVE: Guy Barzvi.

DELOUGHERY: Inna B. Basina.

HARGRAVE: Alysia Christine Burton Basmajian.

DELOUGHERY: Kenneth William Basnicki.

HARGRAVE: Steven Joseph Bates.

DELOUGHERY: Paul James Battaglia.

HARGRAVE: W. David Bauer. DELOUGHERY: Ivhan Luis Carpio Bautista.

HARGRAVE: Marlyn Capito Bautista.

DELOUGHERY: Mark Lawrence Bavis.

HARGRAVE: Jasper Baxter.

DELOUGHERY: Lorraine G. Bay.

HARGRAVE: Michele Beale.

DELOUGHERY: Todd M. Beamer.

HARGRAVE: Paul Frederick Beatini.

DELOUGHERY: Jane S. Beatty.

HARGRAVE: Alan Anthony Beaven.

DELOUGHERY: Lawrence Ira Beck.

HARGRAVE: Manette Marie Beckles.

DELOUGHERY: Carl John Bedigian.

HARGRAVE: Michael Ernest Beekman.

DELOUGHERY: And my uncle, Thomas F. Swift. We love you and we miss you. You live on in our hearts and the hearts and minds of your family and we think about you every day and I can't wait to meet you again. HARGRAVE: And my brother, T.J. Hargrave, who we continue to miss and love every day. The world is a lesser place without him.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yelena Belilovsky.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stephen Elliot Belson.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Denise Lenore Benedetto.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bryan Craig Bennett.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dominick J. Berardi.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: James Patrick Berger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Steven Howard Berger.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Daniel David Bergstein.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Graham Andrew Berkeley.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donna M. Bernaerts.


BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, AMERICAN SINGER: May God bless our fallen brothers and sisters and their families, their friends and their loved ones. This is "I'll See You In My Dreams."

The road is long and seeming without end. The days go on, but I'll remember you my friend. And though you're gone and my heart's been emptied it seems, I'll see you in my dreams. I got your guitar here by the bed.


All your favorite records and all the books that you read. And though my soul feels like it's been split at the seams, I'll see you in my dreams. I'll see you in my dreams when all our summers have come to an end. I'll see you in my dreams. We'll meet and live and laugh again. I'll see you in my dreams. Yeah, up around the river bend for death is not the end cause I'll see you in my dreams.

I'll see you in my dreams when all our summers have come to an end. I'll see you in my dreams. We'll meet and live and love again. I'll see you in my dreams. Yeah, up around the river bend for death is not the end and I'll see you in my dreams. You in my -- I'll see you in my dreams.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT AND ANCHOR: Bruce Springsteen from across the river in New Jersey. Bruce Springsteen from across the river in New Jersey singing "I'll See You In My Dreams" there. In moments, Pentagon leaders will speak in Washington as the nation remembers and we'll bring you there. This is CNN special live coverage. We'll be right back.



TAPPER: Welcome back to CNN special live coverage of the 9/11 memorial services. President Biden and former Presidents Obama and Clinton are here in New York. I'm here with Garrett Graff and Juliette Kayyem to talk about what we just heard and I just want to also take a moment to note we just heard from Bruce Springsteen who is famously from across the river in New Jersey. New Jersey lost 750 residents on 9/11. I mean, while this was a tragedy experienced in New York City, in Washington D.C. and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania ...


TAPPER: ... the pain spreads out all over the country.

KAYYEM: I mean, that's exactly right and I think what I think a lot of us are feeling is all the disunion we feel now, right? All the sort of fights and disagreements is that we're unified in grief which we still, as a nation, have the capacity to do, which may be good or bad depending on how you look at it, but I think just the fissures that have occurred since 9/11, since that moment of unity, are, I think, made better over time, each day, this day, for the last 20 years.

I think the thing that was sort of -- I don't know -- breathtaking was the names, names that sound like they come from Mexico and Colombia and Brazil and Ireland and just the nations represented through immigration in this country who perished that day and that is -- that's who we are and even though there's xenophobia and anti- immigrant sentiment and anti-Islam sentiment as a result of 9/11, the people who died represented the globe.


GARRETT GRAFF, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: And, you know, I think to your point, Jake, about the pain in New Jersey, I mean, when we talk about this new generation who don't remember 9/11, we tell them this very neat and simple history of that day. The four planes, the first attack at 8:46, the whole thing over 102 minutes later with the collapse of the second tower at 10:28. We talk about Pennsylvania, Washington and the Twin Towers here in New York, but that's not the day that any of us who were alive that day actually remember.

You know, we didn't know when the attacks began, we didn't know when they were over, we didn't know how many there had been and we didn't know what came next and this was not, on 9/11, a day that felt contained to New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. You know, there were ...


GRAFF: ... citizens of 90 countries who died that day. You had skyscrapers evacuated in Boston, in Chicago, in Los Angeles, Disney closed in Florida.


GRAFF: ... I mean, this was something that you felt coast to coast, the tremors of that day.

TAPPER: And so your book is called "The Only Plane in the Sky." There was no air travel for several days.


KAYYEM: Right. And I think -- this is the question that no one in my field can answer -- why didn't this lead to just an onslaught of terrorism, of global terrorism?


And part of it is obviously, you know, the war in Afghanistan, the disruption of Al-Qaeda, the Homeland Security effort to protect ourselves. A whole bunch of different things came together, but no attack of a significant magnitude happened. I sometimes ...

TAPPER: Not that they didn't try.

KAYYEM: Try. And also, you know, I thought, in those weeks after, 40 suicide bombers are going to show up at 40 suburban malls and blow themselves up. Like that didn't happen. What it did unleash is what we call GWOT, right? Twenty years of the Global War on Terrorism, which took on many, many forms from the war in Afghanistan to the war in Iraq.

We didn't know it that day. I mean, that day, we believed that we would be under assault for a certain amount of time. We then, for 20 years, really pushed, I think, a lot of the -- let's just say a lot of the anger and a lot of sense of vulnerability into Afghanistan and then of course later to Iraq which is sort of an unwritten piece or we're not talking about it as much 20 years later as we probably should, the extent to which the war in Iraq really changed the effort against terrorism.

TAPPER: And I have a documentary that's airing tomorrow night on CNN at 9:00 o'clock Eastern on the war in Afghanistan.


TAPPER: And we interviewed eight of the commanding generals. General McChrystal, who was a commanding general from roughly 2009 to 2010, he said something very interesting. He said he thought that if he could go back and do it all over again -- and the generals, I have to say, whatever you think of them and whatever you think of how honest the Pentagon and the various administrations have been with the American people, and we'll get to that in the documentary, the generals were pretty candid.

And one of the things that McChrystal said that I thought was interesting was if he could go back and do it again, he would have the United States of America, after 9/11, take a breath, take a year, learn Urdu, have individuals in the military and the State Department become experts, at least to the degree you can within a year ...

KAYYEM: Yes. TAPPER: ... and pause, not rush to do something. And I pointed out, I think accurately, that any president that attempted to do that would be impeached.

KAYYEM: Right.

TAPPER: You know, that there was just such a demand for vengeance and yet in retrospect, you know, while I can't argue against the decision to go after Al-Qaeda, in retrospect, I can't say that taking a breath and trying to figure out how to do things the right way, not the quick way, should be the legacy of 9/11.

KAYYEM: Yes. I mean, we forget that President Bush asked for war plans for Iraq December 2001, just three, four months after. I mean, we were -- we were already heading to our second war by then, so ...

GRAFF: Yes. I mean, when you -- when we look at the U.S. government's response now with, you know, 20 years of hindsight and clarity, it's clear we misunderestimated, in President Bush's words, Al-Qaeda before 9/11 and overestimated them after 9/11 and that this was a group that, on the morning of 9/11, this was not some vast terrorist army. This was an organization of about 100 people.

And we, to go after that attack, launched this sort of all- encompassing 20-year war in multiple countries around the world and, you know, here we are 20 years later and there are more adherents to Al-Qaeda and its franchises in more places in more adversaries around the world than we had on 9/11.

TAPPER: And I think I -- just I'm about to throw to Wolf, but I don't think that there is anything more we can do as a nation that will honor the memories of those who died on 9/11 and since, because we've now lost more people to 9/11-related illnesses, than having these discussions and these debates in a thoughtful and respectful way with people with whom we disagree ...


TAPPER: ... and sussing out all sorts of what happens after that and what happens after that and what's the best way to do this instead of this is the only response ...

KAYYEM: Right.

TAPPER: ... and if you don't believe in this response, you don't support America and you're unpatriotic. It's very important, Wolf, that we -- that we honor their memories by behaving the way that I think a lot of them would want us to behave. Wolf?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely and learn the lessons of these 20 years to make sure it doesn't happen again and if it happens, we do it absolutely perfectly. Those are so, so important. The ceremony to remember the dozens of Americans killed here at the Pentagon, the headquarters of the U.S. military, ceremonies are underway. I want to discuss what's going on. I want to bring back Dana Bash, John King and Kaitlan Collins. You know, Kaitlan, one of the most interesting things that has happened over these past several months, the enormous pressure on President Biden to release classified documents involving Saudi Arabia. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudis and there's a lot of concern what's in that classified information that the U.S. has decided, all of these years, to keep quiet?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Today is obviously about the families and that is something that we have heard from them for years.


They have pushed for the declassification of these documents. They want to know about the Saudi connections. they want to know what these classified documents say and it's been something that has been something brought up with every presidency, of course since President Bush and remember, in 2019, then Attorney General Bill Barr did not move to declassify those documents, saying that they needed to stay classified to protect national security.

That was something that stunned a lot of these families and it was a campaign trail promise from President Biden to move. He said he would err on the side of disclosure when it came to these documents and some of the families actually had talked about this recently when it came to what were the president's plans for this day and so you saw recently he did move to declassify some of these by having the Justice Department conduct this review over the next six months.

It's not clear entirely what will come out of that, but there could be more information learned and this is something really important to these families who you -- as they were saying there, reading the names of their loved ones. Yes, it's been 20 years, but for a lot of them, it seems like just yesterday and this is something they want to know more about when it comes to these documents.

BLITZER: Yes. John, every time -- you know, we're right across the river from Washington D.C., but we're right down the street from Reagan National Airport. Every few minutes, a plane is flying over. I don't know about you, but every time I hear those jets roar, it brings back memories, God forbid, of what happened 20 years ago.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It has become routine again to have these flights, but on this day when we all sat down here, it was striking to hear the roar of a jet engine so close to this building. I was looking through the 9/11 report last night, also a great book written by a good friend of mine, Mitchell Zuckoff, about this day and when the plane hit this building, it was traveling 530 miles an hour, it had 5,300 gallons of jet fuel and it was feet off the ground when it struck over our left shoulders on the other side of this building.

I think Garrett and Juliette make a very important point. For those who were not alive or not older on that day to remember the history, but to study the history and to read the history. Also was struck, Wolf, on this day -- Mike Low was the first person to speak in New York. He lost his daughter. She was one of the flight attendants. Just the grace, the grace.

There was a moment -- remember right after 9/11. President Bush went and stood on the rubble. He had that bullhorn. There was a brief moment, two briefs sadly, where the country was resilient and unified and there was a grace across America. The Iraq War wiped that away. The war in Afghanistan, you know, most would argue was right and just. We can debate forever, you know, the mechanics of that, but the decision. The Iraq War wiped that out and 20 years later, you think of how much has changed.

The Bush presidency changed. He wanted immigration reform, he wanted a humble foreign policy. That gave way, the Iraq War, to polarization and in the Republican party, sort of the nativist xenophobic that brought us Trump. Would Barack Obama have been president without the Iraq War? You could argue not.

So so much -- you could trace from 9/11 so many of the changes that have happened, including, and Juliette touched on this, what has become a security culture, especially in this town. Homeland Security, the TSA, the acronyms of government changed and the economy of this region has become so military, security, cyber, computer focused. We're still learning. The legacy of that day, we know some of the amazing, long list of things that have changed, but some of it's still sinking in.

DANA BASH, CNN CO-ANCHOR, STATE OF THE UNION: Yes. I mean, the Homeland Security Department ...

BLITZER: Was created.

BASH: ... didn't exist on 9/11. It was created because of 9/11 and it changed so much of how the intelligence community deals with each other, with the FBI -- the domestic law enforcement agencies deal with the intelligence community in a way that just didn't exist before. It was -- we all came -- we all became familiar with the term called stovepiping back then ...


BASH: ... because there were so many clues that the government broadly didn't know about because they were so isolated, but ...

BLITZER: Yes. Dana, I want to just make that point again.

BASH: Yes, please. Yes.

BLITZER: It's an important point because we learned, as a result of the failures of 9/11, the left hand of the U.S government was not talking to the right hand of the U.S. government, the FBI wasn't sharing information with the CIA, vice versa and as a result of that, not only the Department of Homeland Security, but the Office of the Director of National Intelligence ...

BASH: Yes.

BLITZER: ... to coordinate all of the various governmental intelligence agencies was created to make sure that people are talking to each other.

BASH: That's exactly right. I mean, one of the missed clues I and my colleagues reported that one of the briefings that they got post 9/11 on Capitol Hill was that there was an NSA, National Security Agency, they brought down or they got a communication and it wasn't translated until September 12th, but in that communication, it was, "Tomorrow is game day," something along those lines, "The match starts tomorrow."

I mean, those kinds of clues weren't fleshed out at all and, you know, luckily, we haven't had something like that in 20 years.


Shouldn't say luck. It's not luck. It's because the systems of our government changed so much in such an important way because of that.

COLLINS: Another thing that has really changed is presidential communication and that was one of the things that, when you read about Bush and his aides when they were on Air Force One, was the struggle to find out what was actually happening on the ground once they were in the air, the safest place they felt they could put the president.

And you listen to Ann Compton, she was just recalling this to John the other day. Now we take it for granted. You get on Air Force One and you're watching CNN and you're seeing what's happening live on the ground as you're in flight going to wherever the president is going. That wasn't an option that they had and they were so high up that they were just barely -- they would pick up local stations as they were flying over them and just struggling to find out what was going on.

But the president himself and his aides were having an issue getting in touch because it was so difficult. That has all been changed now and the president can communicate so much more easily when he is on Air Force One because they realized how vital that is.

BASH: Can I just add one thing to that? I was flying -- I was covering the White House, the Bush White House, post 9/11 and flying back on a -- on a long international trip. I was part of the White House pool and then President Bush took us up to the front of the plane to show us how he had forced the update and upgrade in communications on that plane because of the frustrating day of 9/11/2001 that he had when he had virtually no communication when he was that high in the air.

He was very, very proud of the fact that that was part of the very important change, that the commander-in-chief could actually communicate in a time of crisis like that.

BLITZER: And I know, Dana, you had a chance to speak with the then national security adviser to the president, Condoleezza Rice.

BASH: That's right and I think we'll be showing that later, but she talked a lot about that day and how difficult it was.

BLITZER: You know what? Let's watch it right now.

BASH: Oh, OK. BLITZER: Here's Condoleezza Rice and Dana Bash.


BASH: Secretary Rice, we are looking at a photo of you and of the then vice president and you are inside the president's emergency operations center. What do you most remember about that day?

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER ON 9/11: I remember hearing of the first plane, thinking it was an accident and then the second and third and knowing it was a terrorist attack and being spirited away to that emergency management operations center where you have the picture and that moment of walking in and seeing the vice president, who was on phone with -- the phone with the president, and getting the order that, yes, the Air Force should shoot down any civilian aircraft that was not responding properly.

And thinking what a Hobson choice for the President of the United States, but every plane, every plane in the air had become a potential missile and we were trying -- Norm Mineta, the transportation secretary, was trying to track every aircraft and people were saying, oh, an aircraft just landed in Spain. No, no, it's on its way to Los Angeles.

And it was, in some ways, chaotic and, in other ways, it was incredibly calm because people were going about their business and I remember those moments as thinking that things had changed for the country, but for the Bush administration, they had really changed. This was now a war presidency.

BASH: Yes. No question. You talked about the order that the president gave. Of course the president wasn't there. He was ...

RICE: Right.

BASH: ... traveling, which we'll talk about in a second, but gave the order to shoot down commercial aircraft. I was at the Capitol at that point and one of the questions was whether or not, as you were referring to, some of the missing planes, one in particular, would be used as a weapon just like the three previous were, two at the World Trade Center, one at the Pentagon. What was that like to hear the President of the United States allow or order a commercial aircraft to be shot down because it was going to be used as a weapon?

RICE: It was just a terrible choice. People often ask me, you know, what do you do if something is against your values? It's almost always competing values. So on the one hand, you don't want to kill innocent civilians, but on the other hand, if that plane becomes another missile, then another building goes down and we now know pretty definitively that it probably was headed for the U.S. Capitol, at one point, it was thought maybe the White House.

And when that plane went down in the field in Pennsylvania, we thought that perhaps we'd shot it down and I remember the vice president ...

BASH: Wow. RICE: ... saying to the Pentagon you must know whether you encountered a civilian aircraft and they couldn't confirm. So those brave passengers who drove it into the ground probably saved another attack, this time on what was the symbol of American democracy, the U.S. Capitol.


BASH: True, true heroes. You were one of the first people to speak with President Bush following the attack on the World Trade Center minutes after the second plane hit. Tell me about that conversation. What did you tell him?

RICE: I told him -- I talked to him after the first plane and we both thought perhaps it was an accident of some sort. But then when the second plane went in, we knew it was a terrorist attack. And our conversation was rather sharp and short. He said, "I'm coming back." I said, "Mr. President, you can't come back here."

And I raised my voice to him, Dana, which you don't do to the president of the United States, but I needed him to understand that he couldn't come back, because it wasn't safe. And he -- he was really a little bit angry. He wanted to come back because -- you know him, Dana, and you know that at that moment the emotions were running really, really hot, but that was really the nature of the conversation, you cannot come back here.

BASH: Then let's talk about pre-9/11. The warning signs. Two years prior, 1999, a federal study on terror warned that Al Qaeda could carry out an attack of this magnitude. Less than a month before 9/11 President Bush received a memo entitled "Bin Laden Determined To Strike In The U.S." 2020, hindsight, it's always easier obviously, but do you wish that you had evaluated the intelligence differently?

RICE: I wish that we had had a system that could have merged the intelligence in a way that we could evaluate it differently. This gap that we had between the homeland and the external world, the fact that the FBI did intelligence inside, the CIA did intelligence outside, it made it hard to bring all of the pieces together.

I can tell you, Dana, a day doesn't go by that I don't wish we had seen it differently. I'm incredibly personally remorseful that we didn't, because when nearly 3,000 people die on your watch it's something that stays with you. But, I think, we did everything we knew how to do at that time.

What we didn't have the imagination to see was that the attack would be commercial airliners hijacked and flown into buildings. That memo that you mentioned, August 6th, mentions the possibility of hijacking, but in the most conventional way, maybe take a plane hostage, take people hostage. The idea that you use them as missiles it just wasn't in our imagination.

But I will say this. Had we been organized differently, we might have known for instance that there were phone calls from San Diego to Afghanistan, from one of the hijackers. Now, because we didn't track phone calls across, when they originated in the United States, for very good civil liberties reasons, but we didn't track those, we didn't know that this very dangerous man was in San Diego.

I think we're better off because we think of intelligence differently now. We know that security threats are not all external. They can also arise from within. But that's not how we thought about it in those days.

BASH: You penned an op-ed for "The Wall Street Journal" this week arguing that Americans are more safe now than on 9/11. You mentioned one of the reasons -- I know just now, recent polling though suggests Americans don't agree with you, for lots of reasons. Perhaps one of the reasons is looking at what's happening in Afghanistan, the Taliban back in charge. Why do you think the U.S. is safer?

RICE: Well, I would distinguish the apparatus that we've built, the National Counterterrorism Center that merges intelligence in ways that we did not before 9/11, a Homeland Security Department that didn't exist before 9/11 and is actually dedicated to thinking about the security of the homeland. The fact that for the time being, at least, we have disabled the Al Qaeda, the highly sophisticated, highly disciplined organization that actually carried out the 9/11 attack with.

When you think about the coordination that that took, the flying of planes into buildings, and so forth, you know, that's a sophisticated operation. Denying them the territory of Afghanistan, meant that they couldn't train and they couldn't operate in the way that they did on that day.

But I would separate all of that, all that we achieved in that 20 years with our allies from NATO, and our allies from Afghanistan. The part that doesn't make me feel very comforted is we've lost the eyes and ears on the ground in Afghanistan that helped us to know where the terrorists were, that allowed us to run the kinds of operations that you sometimes have to run against terrorists.


We lost Bagram and other airfields that were able to allow us to run certain -- to even -- even drone operations out of them. And so I would be the first to say we've lost some of the capabilities but that shouldn't diminish the capabilities that we still have. We do -- we are still safer. I hope we can remain that safe into the future.


BLITZER: I certainly hope so as well. Dana, excellent interview. But you can't get over the fact, and she acknowledges this, 20 years ago, the Taliban ruled Afghanistan. When 9/11 happened, the U.S. went into Afghanistan, tried to do away with that. But 20 years later, the Taliban is ruling Afghanistan once again and the U.S. is out.

BASH: It's absolutely true. And she was very clear of saying that she thinks it was a mistake for President Biden to pull every U.S. asset out, that they should have kept eyes and ears on the ground, to maintain just a modicum of intelligence to try to prevent that area from becoming a breeding ground again.

But I want to say, I mean, you remember covering Condi Rice back then. I don't remember her being as candid before -- leading up to today, about the way that they missed things, particularly that PDB, the president's daily brief, that they got in August saying Bin Laden could attack in the U.S.

KING: And, again, one of the promises was that would never happen again. It is a smaller scale. But one of the questions after the Capitol insurrection, is did it happen again? Were there clues in the United States government, in this agency, that agency and this agency that were not properly shared?

So it was a -- that was a legacy conversation of 9/11 that on the big national counterterrorism issue, it is a completely different world we live in. The FBI, talking to the Capitol police, talking to other people, we may need to keep that conversation going.

BLITZER: All right. Let's go back to New York City and continue our coverage of the ceremony.

ANTHOULA KATSIMATIDES, FAMILY SPEAKER: My name is Anthoula Katsimatides. My brother John worked on the 104th floor of Tower One.

When I look back on these last 20 years, I find myself thinking about September 12th, and everything that happened after that, when thousands of us became members of a club that we never signed up for. With no idea of what to do next except to cry, right?

But then something unexpected happened. An unlimited amount of kindness kept pouring in, to each of us, from friends and strangers. The whole country seemed to put its arm around us. And that lent me just enough strength to get up the next day and the day after that, and the day after that. And I realized that all this kindness and giving reminded me of my brother. My larger than life, live out loud, big brother, who loved to make people laugh. And he was always there, whenever something was needed.

I loved and admired those things about him and I began to emulate them. And it made me feel like I was picking up a baton that he had left for me. I started working with the 9/11 families, helping them navigate the emotional process of thinking about the memorial, and connecting their concerns with the staff and designers and officials.

John used to say, "Thoula, you got to have fun, you got to be daring with your life." And with that, I discovered a zest for acting. It was a new direction for me, a way to express creatively all that I felt inside, a way for me to share stories.


Everything I was doing gave me the feeling that my brother Johnny was with me. "You got this, kid." It takes a really long time to figure out who you are and who you were meant to be. And all of us had to find new ways to get there. But if I had given up, oh, oh, boy, my brother would have been so mad at me. GENERAL MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS: Fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters. All that changed at 9:37 a.m. as the innocent were caught in the crossfire of terror. The ideology of hatred unfolded on this very ground.

In seconds, scores of lives were lost. A hundred and eighty-four men, women, and children were slaughtered in the violent impact and fury, 59 passengers and crew, 125 of our Pentagon colleagues. And the innocent range in age from three to 71 years old.

Those who perished here were among the 2,977 killed on that day, here, in New York, and in Pennsylvania. Not for what they did but for what they believed and what they represented. Not for anything they did but rather for who they were.

The people we lost that day are not just names and numbers. We remember them today for not only who they were but what they could have become. They were irreplaceable to their families, instrumental in their jobs, woven into the fabric of their community, full of life and potential.

Lives cut short. Pain that can never be properly described in words. Suffering that will never fully heal. And no words that I nor anyone else will ever say that can fill the gaping hole.

But we the living, we have a solemn duty to honor their memory, their legacy. To honor and remember them, not just today, but every day.

The horrific acts of terrorism on that day were meant to disrupt our way of life and destroy the idea that is America. That idea is simple, yet incredibly powerful.

The idea that terrorists hate and fear. The idea that all of us, men and women, black and white, Asian and Indian, no matter what the color of our skin, no matter if we are Catholic, a Protestant, Muslim or Jew, or if we choose not to believe at all. The idea is that each and every one of us is created free and equal.

The idea that we will rise or fall based on America. The idea of a free press, free speech, due process of law, the right to vote or peacefully assemble and protest for or against this cause or that. The idea of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. All of that is what our fallen believed in and what they embodied.

All of the values and principles imbedded in our constitution and made real in our daily lives were paid for with the blood of the fallen on this place at 9:37 on September 11th, 2001. Those ideas were and still are hated by our enemies, the fascists, the Nazis, the communists, Al Qaeda, ISIS, the Taliban, authoritarians, dictators, and tyrants of all kinds. They hate those ideas. They hate those values.

And on 9/11, they tried to destroy us. They tried to divide us. And they tried ultimately in vain to terrify us.

But their murderous intent was never realized. Instead of sowing fear and division we gathered in New York and Pennsylvania and right here at the Pentagon. And we came together as a nation with acts of heroism, unity and perseverance, many conducted by you in the audience today


While we grieve for our fallen, we celebrate the life they led. Their legacy lives on in the idea that is America. And no terrorist anywhere on Earth can ever destroy that idea.

Since that dark day 20 years ago, the men and women of the United States military have fought tirelessly to defeat terrorists in Afghanistan and around the world. Both at home and abroad, their talent and their efforts and their courage, their personal valor has carried this fight day and night.

We did not fear what was in front of us because we love what was behind us. Eight hundred thousand of us in uniform served in Afghanistan over the last 20 years. Tens of thousands more served elsewhere in the collective fight against terrorism. And thousands more stand watch today all around the world.

Two thousand four hundred and sixty-one of us gave the last full measure of devotion including 13 just two weeks ago, while 20,698 of us were wounded, and untold thousands more suffer with the invisible wounds of war as we close this terrible chapter in our nation's history.

For two consecutive decades, our men and women in uniform along with our brothers and sisters in the intelligence and law enforcement agencies protected our nation from terrorist attack. For those of us in uniform, for our families who have suffered and sacrificed along our side, for those who have supported us, these have been incredibly emotional, exhausting, and trying years. We are all now, this very day, very conflicted with feelings of pain and anger, sorrow and sadness, combined with pride and resilience.

But one thing I am certain of, for every soldier, sailor and airman or marine, for every CIA officer, for every FBI agent, for every cop and fireman, you did your duty, your service mattered, your sacrifice was not in vain. So let us resolve, let us resolve here yet again today, on this hallowed ground, to never forget. To never forget those who were murdered by terrorists. Never forget those who rushed to save their lives and gave theirs in exchange. Never forget the sons and daughters, the brothers and sisters, and the mothers and fathers, who gave their tomorrows for our todays. Honor them. Honor them today and forever. Honor the cause they serve. Honor their commitment to this experiment in liberty that we call the United States of America.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is now my pleasure and deep honor to introduce the Secretary of Defense of the United States of America, the Honorable Lloyd J. Austin.


LLOYD AUSTIN, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Thank you. It is an honor to be here with you and -- especially with the families and loved one of those taken from us 20 years ago, and with the first responders who raced to help, and with our brothers and sisters in arms whose lives were changed forever on that day of fire.

On behalf of the Department of Defense, let me renew our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of all those lost on 9/11 including the 184 souls taken from us in the attack on the Pentagon, in the building and on Flight 77. We know that you carry pain every day.


We know that you bear your losses not just at times of ceremony but also in ordinary moments of absence, in quiet minutes that can seem to stretch on for hours. All of us are here because we remember. And I hope knowing that is at least some measure of comfort.

Just as we once worked alongside so many of them, we now mourn alongside all of you. Today of all days, we gather their memory close.

My thoughts turn to Lieutenant General Tim Maude, an outstanding soldier and leader. He was killed on 9/11 while serving as the Army's Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel. I still wish that we could turn to him for counsel. And I still remember his love for his soldiers, his Army, and his country.

We know that the memories can be hard to bear. And we know that sorrow doesn't end. But over the years, we hope that the good memories come to us more often and more easily.

And today, we remember not just who our fallen teammates were, but we remember the mission that they shared. And we recall their common commitment to defend our republic and to squarely face new dangers.

As many of you know, the construction of the Pentagon began on another September 11th, back in 1941. As war raged overseas, workers with steam shovels began digging that morning into the Virginia clay. Historians say that it was a perfect late day summer -- a late summer day, with a crystal clear blue sky and a hint of fall in the air.

On that September 11th night, President Franklin Roosevelt gave a fireside chat about the growing threat of Nazi aggression. America's attention was turned inward and focused on the depression. But the president was sure that his fellow citizens, whom he called hard headed and farsighted, would meet the challenge of fascism.

He said, "The American people have faced other grave crises in their history, with American courage, with American resolution. They will do no less today."

And the president added that his fellow citizens knew that times of testing call for clear heads and fearless hearts. Clear heads and fearless hearts. That's what our times demand again. And they demand that we remember that same September day 60 years later, and the ideals that brought our teammates to work on September 11th, 2001.

Now, almost a quarter of the citizens who we defend today were born after 9/11. And that includes thousands of our outstanding young service members. And many of the 13 brave men and women who, just days ago, gave their lives to save others in Afghanistan were babies back in 2001.

And as Secretary of Defense and a veteran of the Afghan war, let me underscore again how much we owe to all those who fought and to all those who fell while serving our country in Afghanistan.

As the years march on, we must ensure that all our fellow Americans know and understand what happened here on 9/11, and in Manhattan, and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.


It is our responsibility to remember. And it is our duty to defend democracy.

We cannot know what the next 20 years will bring. We cannot know what new dangers they will carry. We cannot foresee what Churchill once called the "originality of malice."

But we do know that America will always lead. And we do know the only compass that can guide us through the storms ahead. It is our core values and the principles enshrined in our constitution. Liberty, rights, the rule of law. And a fierce commitment to a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

It is our job to defend the great experiment that is America. To protect this exceptional republic, body and soul. And to defend the American people in our democracy. Even when it's hard. Especially when it's hard.

And ladies and gentlemen, we must be tireless guardians of our ideals as well as our security. Because we cannot have one without the other.

Let me thank again the families or the loved ones and survivors for all that you have given and for the inspiration that you provide. The hallways that we tread were the ones that so many of them walked. It will always be our duty to fulfill their missions and to live up to their goodness and to stand guard over this democracy.

We still work here. We still remember here. And we still uphold our values here, with clear heads and fearless hearts. Thank you and may God protect the United States of America.


ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, please stand for "God Bless America."

CHOIR: God bless America, land that I love. Stand beside her and guide her through the night with the light from above. From the mountains, from the mountains, to the prairies, to the prairies, to the oceans, to the oceans white with foam. God bless America, my home sweet home. God bless America, my home sweet home.