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State Dept. Commemoration of September 11th

Commemoration of September 11th

Richard L. Armitage, Deputy Secretary of State; Ruth A. Davis, Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources C Street Lobby Washington, DC September 11, 2002

AMBASSADOR DAVIS: Welcome to all of you. We will open this commemoration with the presentation of the Colors, done by our Diplomatic Security Color Guard, followed by the singing of the National Anthem, which will be led by Michelle Long.

There are certain days in every lifetime that are forever etched in memory. September 11, 2001, is one of those days. I remember how beautiful a morning it was it really was a wonderful day to be alive. Many of those who never came home that day probably thought the very same thing.

Today, exactly one year later, it is right that we pause to remember those who didn t return home and those who still grieve. Therefore, I would like to ask Secretary Armitage to lead us in our collective commemoration followed by a moment of silence.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Last week, President Bush proclaimed September 11th to be Patriot Day; a national day of remembrance. Of all those who lost their lives, of the firefighters and rescue workers in New York, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania; of our military service members, and of ordinary citizens, all who responded on that day and in all the days since. As the President states in his proclamation: "With heroism and selflessness; with compassion and courage; and with prayer and hope." From this day forward, September 11th will always be a day of ceremony all over this nation, not just for grieving, but also for celebrating the essence of the American character.

But I m sure each of us will also think of where we were at this time last year, and have some private remembrance of those terrible moments on that beautiful day. But today, right now, this is a family affair. We are gathering together in this building; in our buildings in almost every country in the world, from our largest post in Saudi Arabia; to our smallest in Grenada; and our newest in Dili to mark this day and all that it means to us as a Department as a family.

The 17th century English poet, John Donne, wrote that: "Any man s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind." And so we were all diminished 3,000 times over on this day last year. I don t think anyone needed to ask for whom the bell tolled on September 11, 2001, we all knew it tolled for each of us, we all felt the impact reverberate in our own souls.

And I think on that day most of our fellow Americans stood apart from their lives and took stock. They asked themselves: What if I had been on that plane or on the 104th floor of the North Tower or in the 4th corridor of the e-ring? What would I have felt? Would I have known that I loved my family enough? Would I have known that I lived a good life? I think far too many Americans did not like the answers to the questions they asked themselves on that day.

And many have perhaps made a change for the better, made more time for their children s school plays and soccer matches; remembered to say "I love you" as they walked out the door; thought about how to play a richer part in the life of their community; and the future of this nation.

But on that day, we in this family saw something different when we looked at ourselves, because we have the great privilege of knowing, of knowing that we are each involved in mankind, that we have a direct stake in the future of this nation because we have each chosen to live a life of significance.

In making this choice, we joined a long and proud tradition. Ever this young nation sent Benjamin Franklin to France 226 years ago; we have been blessed with a rich history of statecraft and diplomacy, one that has not only preserved our freedoms here at home, but has promoted the best our nation has to offer to the world, our values, the fruits of our labor, the energy and optimism of the American spirit. But this long tradition of diplomacy also has been marked by more sacrifice than most Americans will ever know. There are few professions more dangerous than the practice of foreign affairs.

It is fitting today that we would hold this ceremony at this site. The pictures of our new national heroes hang behind me, as Secretary Powell said of these photos: "Remembrance requires a face. Events that are anonymous are events forgotten." People in 134 cities around the world will have the opportunity to see these faces and remember along with us. And of course, they will not only be grieving for our loss, but in many cases, for their own. Citizens from more than 90 countries died that day.

But here in this hall, we also give remembrance a name, 209 of them, inscribed in these walls. For those of you who are here in Washington, look around you at these names. You probably walk past the marble tablets and bronze plaques every day, but today, stop and think for a moment about the people listed there. And for those of you who are listening from your posts overseas, remember the next time you come home to America to make a special trip to this place, to pay homage to these names.

These are the people who fell in the line of duty in, as it says on the plaques, "heroic or other inspirational circumstances." and they will always be a part of our family, from the first person so memorialized, William Palfrey, who was lost at sea en route to his post in France in 1780. To the last person added to the wall, Barbara Green, who was killed along with her daughter Kristin in a terrorist attack in Islamabad in March. I had the sad duty of meeting the family of Barbara Green at Andrews Air Force Base, and delivering a eulogy to her service, and I will always carry with me the memory of her courage.

Far too many of the names listed on these walls in the last 25 years have been the victims of terrorists, including those who died in our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. And I want to take a moment to introduce you all to a very special person, Mr.Tobias Otieno, who is here with his brother, Malachy. Mr. Otieno, a gifted senior trade specialist with the Foreign and Commercial Service, was gravely injured in the explosion in Nairobi. But what you need to know about Mr. Otieno, is that his will to excel is completely unbroken, his commitment to his work is enduring; as is our commitment to you, Mr. Otieno.

Tobias Otieno will bear the scars of that day for the rest his life; just as Milton Green and his son Zach will never fully recover from the loss they suffered in March. But none of them has given up. Today, Zach is with his father at Milt s new post in Thailand; and Tobias long ago returned to his work in Nairobi at the new embassy.

This is the spirit that animates us all, that makes these names inscribed in marble and etched in metal, a living memorial, and one that is truly lasting.

Shakespeare once wrote that life is full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Today, on this first Patriot Day, I invite you to join with all the members of your Department of State family, to take a moment of silence, and make it a monument to quiet remembrance. Not just of the tragedy that happened at this same moment one year ago, but of the countless tragedies that never happened at all, tragedies that never happened because of the people memorialized on these walls, and because of all of you. And so join me now, fill this moment of silence with pride in your service, and your pledge to continue to live a life of significance.


Released on September 11, 2002

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