Today we are Americans.
No other label applies. We stand united against evil, tyranny, hatred and those who believe innocent people are targets in what they call a holy war.
We are not perfect. We, as a nation, have made terrible mistakes. But we live in a society that allows us to discuss those mistakes, and vote out the leaders who make them.
But today is not about mistakes. Today is a day for heroes.
The world first saw the character of Americans in places called called Bunker Hill and Valley Forge.
We tested the character of our nation, on battlefields called Antietam and Gettysburg.
More Americans died at Antietam than on any other day in the history of our nation. September 11, 2001 is the second most bloodiest day in our history.
From those battlefields on American soil, came in the words of President Lincoln,
“A new birth of freedom.”
We emerged from our civil war stronger and wiser. When the world needed us in 1917, we answered the call. Americans died in battlefields and trenches an ocean away. Americans died so that other nations could enjoy the freedom we already knew.
Then came the depression, and the emergence of a new evil. Hitler and Tojo underestimated our character. Once again the call came. Once again Americans answered the call.
Americans died on the beaches of Normandy, in the cold winter of the Ardennes Forrest, and in the stifling hot jungles of Guadalcanal. We raised the flag on Mount Surabachi on Iwo Jima, because once we start fighting, we do not stop. We do not surrender no matter the odds against us.
6,821 Americans gave their life on Iwo Jima.
In the battle of Midway in June 1942, , young American boys, many not 20 years of age, flew their bombers – most unescorted and unprotected by fighters- into almost certain death, as again and again waves of American Naval Aviators attacked and sank four Japanese Carriers. When the day was over, Japan was never again able to mount a naval challenge in the Pacific.
Americans had answered the call.
Americans answered the call in Korea, and American and Royal British Marines fought side by side in the frigid cold of the Chosin Reservoir, surrounded by an overwhelming number of Chinese soldiers. The Marines never gave up.
We answered the call in South East Asia, and learned that with power and bravery, a country needs wisdom and temperance. Over fifty thousand names are engraved in granite in Washington DC to remember not the mistake of our politicians, but the bravery and character of Americans.
We took down a wall in Berlin, and nary a shot was fired.
And five years ago today, we once again rose to the occasion.
New York City Firemen, Policemen, and NYC Transit Authority officers ran into two burning buildings. Two buildings that happened to be two of the tallest buildings in the world. Most did not come out.
Janitors, stockbrokers, waiters, lawyers, accountants, secretaries, ordinary people all, stopped in those burning buildings, and helped their fellow Americans out. Some paid for their courage with their lives as well.
And on one airplane, over Pennsylvania, 41 Americans fought back.
They were not soldiers trained to fight. But to fight terror and tyranny was in their blood, in their genes, and in their character forged from those holy battlefields we have mentioned, and thousand others we have not. Those Americans banded together in the face of fear and almost certain death.
They stood up and looked evil in the eye and said “NO. Not anymore. No more Americans will die today by airplanes crashing into buildings.”
You see, we are Americans and we fight when we need to.
United Flight 93 crashed in a farm field in Shanksville Pennsylvania.
That ground is now holy as well.
This is a day we remember heroes.
This is a day when, above and beyond all else, we are simply, proudly, Americans.
And we shall never forget our heroes.