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Arlington Wreath Laying Ceremony

Aired September 11, 2003 - 09:30   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: 9:37 the precise moment when that American Airlines flight crashed into the Pentagon wall right behind me. Since then it's been rebuilt.
Over at Arlington National Cemetery, we're standing by for a formal ceremony, a wreath laying ceremony. The secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, among others will be participating. They'll be engaged at 9:37 precisely in a moment of silence.

They will have brief remarks over at Arlington National Cemetery. Then there will be a formal wreath laying ceremony. We're going to watch. We're going to listen as these events unfold over at Arlington National Cemetery.


CMDR. ROBERT BELTRAM, U.S. NAVY CHAPLAIN: ... to commemorate the lives of those stolen from among us at 9:37 a.m. on the morning of the 11 of September 2001.

Today, we remember those patriots who are in the quest for justice by their lives bequeath to us and future generations the freedoms and liberties which we know as Americans. While the words of the poet, "When to the sessions of sweet silent thought, I summon up remembrance of things past," ring true on a day when even the most eloquent words are inadequate to fully express our thoughts and feelings, truer still are those words which give to us that hope we have in almighty God the immutably sacred ground of our future as a people, as a nation.

How much of life is inexplicable? This we are certain that through these many days since that very moment, God has been our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble, of that we are certain. God has been an ever-present source of reassurance to us, enabling us to proclaim therefore we will not fear.

For out of the ashes of September the 11, 2001 is a nation. We have risen with a resolve, ever looking forward, inspired by those patriots we honor today.

Now, in the stillness of this moment we look beyond this day and pledge that though they whom we remember this day are lost, they shall never be forgotten.

ANNOUNCER: Please rise and remain standing for the advancement of colors, the national anthem, and the invocation given by Chaplain Beltram.


ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, the invocation.

BELTRAM: Let us pray. Before we ever were you have been. Long after we are gone, you shall ever be. The one who has no beginning, the one who has no end.

So it is to you that we look this day eternal and ever-lasting God and pray for your blessing as we unite with countless Americans to commemorate the lives of those fallen patriots who will forever give testimony to the character of our nation.

May the silence of the moment which is before us announce to all the world the legacy of those who beckon us to out shore the shadows of terror's night. May the memory of their lives be the clarion call to complete the task set before us to make this world a safer place for all to live. As children standing before the wisdom of the ages, may we always look to you in faith, reassured of your abiding love with us.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, I invite you to join with Americans throughout our great land as we observe a moment of silence.


ANNOUNCER: Please be seated.

Ladies and gentlemen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers.

GEN. RICHARD MYERS, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Secretary Rumsfeld, Secretary Wolfowitz, Secretary Armitage, Secretaries Roach (ph), Johnson (ph) and Brownly (ph), fellow members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ladies and gentlemen, good morning.

I'd like to offer a special welcome to the families, friends and co-workers of those who lost their lives in the Pentagon on September 11 of 2001. And I think I see a number of crew members here from American Airlines. It's great to have you here, as well.

Patriots Day is a day to remember and honor them, along with those who perished in Pennsylvania and New York. And to celebrate their lives and their legacies. The Nobel Prize-winning American author William Faulkner said, "I believe that man will not merely endure, he will prevail. He is immortal because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance."

The patriots who lost their lives in the Pentagon on 11 September embody that spirit. They are all heroes. Not just because they gave their lives, but because they lived their lives as free Americans, and many in service to their country.

For the last two years we've been a nation at war. Terrorists are trying to defeat what we Americans stand for. For peace, freedom, tolerance and respect for human life. So we've undertaken an enormous effort to prevent them from spreading their creed of bloodshed, of hatred, of intolerance.

This war on terrorism will be a long, hard struggle requiring our patience, our commitment and our will. Make no doubt about it, we are winning. And we're winning because we have a superb team of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and civilians who are 100 percent dedicated to winning this war. They've already made tremendous sacrifices. They're all patriots, too. Truly America's heroes.

Those who lost their lives in the Pentagon two years ago were air crewmembers, innocent passengers. Inside the Pentagon officers and enlisted, active duty and reserve, civil servants, contractors. Some were just beginning their careers and some had long -- a long record of honorable service. They were from all over the country and from a wide range of background. But they were all dedicated to serving our nation and defending our freedoms.

For those in the Pentagon, their hard work helped build the armed forces that we have today and pave the way for this important fight. And our success on this war on terrorism wouldn't have been possible without the sacrifices they made before September 11, 2001.

In my view, it wasn't just their deaths that made them heroes. They're heroes because they lived lives of dedication to duty and service to country. We are proud to have known them, and they'll be sorely missed. They won't be forgotten by their friends and families who loved them, or the co-workers who respect them, or the nation that is so grateful for all they did.

And in the memory of all those killed at the Pentagon two years ago, we will not merely endure, we will prevail.

ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, the secretary of defense, the Honorable Donald Rumsfeld.

DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Chairman Dick Myers, Chaplain Beltram, distinguished officials of the Department of Defense and other agencies of government, members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, we are pleased you're here to join with the families and friends of those who lost their lives.

Veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Iraqi Freedom, we thank you for your heroic service for our country. And families and friends of those deceased.

We gather here today to honor the heroes who sleep in these hills, and to commemorate the second annual observance of Patriot Day. But while the occasion is not yet new, the concept is as old as our republic's founding ideals and the belief we cherish in our heart that freedom will triumph over tyranny. That is why patriots are so very important.

A patriot is one who loves his land, prizes its principles and cherishes its creed. A patriot so reveres the ideals of his home country that he is willing to lay down his life to ensure that those ideals endure.

Throughout out history, from the earliest days of our nation, up to the present time, America has been blessed with patriots, men and women willing to give of themselves that this nation and the freedom upon which it was founded might live.

Just behind me and to my right, you can see through the trees, the western wall of the building that was attacked two years ago this day. And in our mind's eye, you can see the arsenal of democracy that it represents. The men and women who died there that day were part of that arsenal, defending democracy, as surely as any patriot on the front line.

And out there to my right, almost in a direct line, the monument that cradles the unknown remains of that day, we can glimpse the tip of the Washington monument, pushing upwards towards heaven. And beyond it the monuments to Jefferson, Lincoln, and other patriots of their time.

Straight ahead, beyond the open space that lies just beyond the trees, lie America's most recent patriots, the heroes of Afghanistan and Iraq. And I thank the other heroes of those battles who were with us today, patriots every one.

Each of those who have fallen gave their lives for something larger than themselves. They are important. They are important because without such patriots, freedom cannot exist.

Freedom is the birth right of every American. We know that to be so. But it is the birth right, as well, of every person, a gift of God. Given to all, but denied to many by tyrants, by dictators, who place their own power above human dignity and even human life. To those millions in those places, America is truly the light of liberty, and the hope of the world. This is something we've always known to be true.

Thomas Payne said during the American Revolution, "America shall make a stand not for itself alone, but for the world."

And from that day to this, the voices of other patriots in other times have rung out in support of human freedom. President Ronald Reagan telling Mr. Gorbachev to tear down that wall. President Bush atop the rubble at the World Trade Center, telling the terrorists that they would hear from all of us soon.

They did hear from us, and the fight for freedom continues, because we know that if we do not fight the terrorists over there, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and across the world, then we will have to face them here, and many more innocent men, women, and children, as well as the patriots defending them, will perish. That's why we will prevail.

In 1834 Daniel Webster told the Senate, "God grants liberty only to those who love it, and are always ready to guard and defend it." Fortunately for our nation, there continues to exist a long, unbroken line of patriotic defenders who rise up from this land we call America and take their place on freedom's walls. And so today, let us remember all those who died in New York, in Pennsylvania, here at the Pentagon, in the mountains of Afghanistan, in the deserts of Iraq. And let us recommit ourselves to their cause and to our mission, the triumph of freedom over tyranny.

And let this day always be a reminder to our nation and to the world, why we fight in freedom's cause, and why we must fight in freedom's cause and why we must fight win this global war on terror.

May God bless and protect our patriots, and may he continue to bless the United States of America.

ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, please rise and remain standing for the wreath laying, Taps, and the benediction.

BELTRAM: Let us pray.

BLITZER: A moving ceremony at the Arlington National Cemetery, not far from the Pentagon where at exactly 9:37 there was a moment of silence. Everyone simply stopped, stood, reflected on exactly where they were two years ago, what was going on here at the Pentagon behind me, precisely at that moment two years ago. Construction workers, military personnel, as well as civilian employees of the Pentagon simply stopping everything they were doing, remembering that very, very poignant moment here at the Pentagon in the year 2001.

These ceremonies, these commemorations will continue throughout the day here in Washington. Very low-key, very muted. Certainly in contrast to what occurred exactly one year ago.

But no one should be under any illusions. People here remember precisely what happened. And perhaps the message going forth from the Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld insisting that two years later, if the U.S. and its allies don't do now, he said, what they're doing in Afghanistan and Iraq, there will be more 9/11s here on U.S. soil. The thrust of the message coming from the defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.


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