By Terri Moon Cronk DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, September 11, 2015 — The family members who return to the Pentagon each year to mark the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks set an example of strength and resilience for others, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said today at the Pentagon Memorial’s Patriot Day ceremony to honor all those who died here 14 years ago.
Carter and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva were joined by their wives at the memorial during a wreath-laying ceremony to honor the families and victims. Terrorists flew American Airlines Flight 77 into the west side of the Pentagon, near where the memorial is now located, killing 184 service members, Defense Department employees, as well as aircraft passengers and crew.
There was a moment of silence at 9:37 a.m., the time the plane struck the building, as families and dignitaries gathered at the memorial under the American flag that drapes the Pentagon each year on this day from sunrise to sundown.
The secretary offered his condolences to the families on behalf of DoD for their losses and the burdens they continue to carry, he said.
“We cannot fully appreciate how much your lives changed, or how much you lost on this morning 14 years ago today,” Carter said.
“We cannot understand how it has felt on every day since, to long for their laugh, or to see their smile, or to feel their embrace,” he said. “We simply cannot comprehend the weight of their absence. But for me, and for so many others at the Pentagon, the weight of their memory, and our duty to honor it, is something we carry with us every day.”
The memory of each individual is an ever-present reminder, Carter said, “To cherish each day with those who love us, to stay vigilant against those who would harm us, to remain guided by the values that have always made us great.”
A Day of Strength and Resolve
It takes a great deal of courage to come back on this day every year, Selva, the nation’s second highest-ranking military officer told the families.
‘Today is about strength and resolve. We find strength in the children and spouses of the survivors, who carried on and are here to celebrate the memory of their relatives,” he said.
Selva said he saw in audience members the resolve of the nation to defend freedom and liberty wherever it is challenged, and added, “An entire generation of young American men and women have put their lives on the line for the concepts of freedom and liberty that we hold dear.”
Today offers “all of us an opportunity to rededicate our lives to those causes, to the things that make this nation great,” he said.
Secretary Shares his 9/11 Reminder
During times of grief, people sometimes hold on to a memento reminding them of their loved one, the secretary said, Carter said his reminder is on his desk every day -- A piece of the Pentagon that was collected from the rubble and passed down to him by his predecessors.
“Beneath this piece of Indiana limestone reads a simple inscription: ‘To honor the 184 people whose lives were lost, their families, and all those who sacrificed, that we may live in freedom, we will never forget,’” he said.
“[We] do know … what the lives of your loved ones mean to this community and to this nation,” Carter said. “And I hope you know that by returning here to the Pentagon each year, you set an example of strength and resilience for all of us.”
‘Terrorists Will Not Escape Justice’
“Terrorists who hope to intimidate us will find no satisfaction and no success in threatening the United States,” the secretary said. “Because not only do we come back, but by living in honor of those we have lost, we come back stronger than ever before.”
Forever more, Carter said, “Terrorists who threaten us will learn this simple, yet unbending truth: No matter how long it takes, no matter where they may hide, they will not escape the long arm of justice. The threat from terrorism may evolve but our determination to hold these killers accountable remains constant.”
Americans and the military have the will and capability to ensure justice is done, he said.
“And because of our men and women in uniform, because we can rely on the finest fighting force the world has ever known, we know that justice will be done,” Carter said.
“When terrorists attacked the Pentagon, they tore a hole in this building. They tore at places in your hearts that may never heal completely. But as you know better than anyone, they did not and could not take from us what defines us,” the secretary told the families.
“Today, and all days,” the secretary said, “we honor and remember your loved ones. Because of the example you have set for each of us, for our American family, you have our deepest admiration and appreciation.”