I was in my 9th grade Algebra class.
Our teacher would sometimes read us funny news stories as we worked on our lesson for the day, and I remember hearing a confused sound from behind the computer. “I think there’s been an accident in New York.”
Someone flew a plane into a building in Manhattan. I remember we were confused–maybe the pilot fell asleep? How was he even that close to hit a building?
When the second plane hit, we started to figure it out. Growing up in a suburb of DC, many kids had parents who worked downtown. When the Pentagon was hit, I remember some starting to cry. It was 2001; teenagers didn’t really have cell phones yet. We were excused one at a time to go to the office and call our families.
Classes were canceled for the day, and televisions were set up in the foyer of our school building so we could watch the news. I remember standing looking out our classroom’s second story window and wondering if this was the end of the world.
Later that day, we sat in a booth at a local restaurant reading the paper. I was only fifteen–I had never really sat and read the newspaper before. I still remember the front page of The Washington Post dominated by the smoking twin towers.
And then I remember this. A man I had never spared a though for gave a speech. It was played on every television in the restaurant, and everything stopped so we could listen.
Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts.
The victims were in airplanes or in their offices — secretaries, businessmen and women, military and federal workers. Moms and dads. Friends and neighbors.
Thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror.
The pictures of airplanes flying into buildings, fires burning, huge structures collapsing, have filled us with disbelief, terrible sadness and a quiet, unyielding anger.
These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat. But they have failed. Our country is strong. A great people has been moved to defend a great nation.
Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.
America was targeted for attack because we’re the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world. And no one will keep that light from shining.
Today, our nation saw evil, the very worst of human nature, and we responded with the best of America, with the daring of our rescue workers, with the caring for strangers and neighbors who came to give blood and help in any way they could.
Immediately following the first attack, I implemented our government’s emergency response plans. Our military is powerful, and it’s prepared. Our emergency teams are working in New York City and Washington, D.C., to help with local rescue efforts.
Our first priority is to get help to those who have been injured and to take every precaution to protect our citizens at home and around the world from further attacks.
The functions of our government continue without interruption. Federal agencies in Washington which had to be evacuated today are reopening for essential personnel tonight and will be open for business tomorrow.
Our financial institutions remain strong, and the American economy will be open for business as well.
The search is underway for those who are behind these evil acts. I’ve directed the full resources for our intelligence and law enforcement communities to find those responsible and bring them to justice. We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.
I appreciate so very much the members of Congress who have joined me in strongly condemning these attacks. And on behalf of the American people, I thank the many world leaders who have called to offer their condolences and assistance.
America and our friends and allies join with all those who want peace and security in the world and we stand together to win the war against terrorism.
Tonight I ask for your prayers for all those who grieve, for the children whose worlds have been shattered, for all whose sense of safety and security has been threatened. And I pray they will be comforted by a power greater than any of us spoken through the ages in Psalm 23: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me.”
This is a day when all Americans from every walk of life unite in our resolve for justice and peace. America has stood down enemies before, and we will do so this time.
None of us will ever forget this day, yet we go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world.
Thank you. Good night and God bless America.
I will never forget, and I hope I will always be proud to call myself an American.