[Twelve] years ago, America confronted one of our darkest nights. Mighty towers crumbled. Black smoke billowed up from the Pentagon. Airplane wreckage smoldered on a Pennsylvania field. Friends and neighbors; sisters and brothers; mothers and fathers; sons and daughters — they were taken from us with heartbreaking swiftness and cruelty. On Sept. 12, 2001, we awoke to a world in which evil was closer at hand, and uncertainty clouded our future.
In the decade since, much has changed for Americans. We’ve known war and recession; passionate debates and political divides. We can never get back the lives we lost on that day, or the Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice in the wars that followed.
Yet today, it is worth remembering what has not changed. Our character as a nation has not changed. Our faith — in God and each other — that has not changed. Our belief in America, born of a timeless ideal that men and women should govern themselves; that all people are created equal, and deserve the same freedom to determine their own destiny — that belief, through test and trials, has only been strengthened.
Two million Americans have gone to war since 9/11. They have demonstrated that those who do us harm cannot hide from the reach of justice, anywhere in the world. America has been defended not by conscripts, but by citizens who choose to serve — young people who signed up straight out of school; guardsmen and reservists; workers and business-people; immigrants and fourth-generation soldiers. They are men and women who left behind lives of comfort for two, three, four, or five tours of duty. Too many will never come home. Those that do carry dark memories from distant places, and the legacy of fallen friends.
The sacrifices of these men and women, and of our military families, reminds us that the wages of war are great; that while their service to our nation is full of glory, war itself is never glorious. Our troops have been to lands unknown to many Americans a decade ago — to Kandahar and Kabul; to Mosul and Basra. But our strength is not measured in our ability to stay in these places; it comes from our commitment to leave those lands to free people and sovereign states, and our desire to move from a decade of war to a future of peace.
That will be the legacy of 9/11 — a legacy of firefighters who walked into fire and soldiers who signed up to serve; of workers who raised new towers, citizens who faced down fear, and children who realized the dreams of their parents. It will be said of us that we kept that faith; that we took a painful blow, and emerged stronger.
With a just God as our guide, let us honor those who have been lost; let us rededicate ourselves to the ideals that define our nation, and let us look to the future with hearts full of hope. May God bless the memory of those we lost, and may God Bless the United States of America.
-President Barack H. Obama, Sept. 11, 2011