Vice President Mike Pence spoke with particular emotion in his voice at times as he recounted the events of September 11, 2001 from the Flight 93 memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania on Monday. Pence honored the families of the fallen passenger “heroes” who took action to overtake the terrorist hijackers of their plane that day.
After addressing those present, including families of those who died on Flight 93, Pence began:
President Trump asked me to be here, to pay a debt of honor to the 40 heroes of Flight 93, to all the fallen, and their families, and to the generation of heroes they inspired and to tell you that his heart is here in Pennsylvania, especially with all you who lost loved ones 16 years ago.
He spoke of the President’s observance of this day at the Pentagon, where Trump gave tribute to the 184 men and women who died there in the attacks. Pence added that their hearts were also with the 2,753 men and women who lost their lives in the attacks on New York’s World Trade Center.
“We grieve with every family of the innocent souls who were murdered by terrorists that day.
The Vice President recalled where he was on September 11, 2001, as he said every American who lived through it does. Pence was a new member of the U.S. House of Representatives at the time and was in the Capitol Building when he heard about attacks in New York and the Pentagon. He recalled being ushered across the street to the top floor of the headquarters of the Capitol Police Chief and images of a building being evacuated, “hemorrhaging with people running in every direction.”
Pence said that the police chief relayed from a phone call to leaders of the House and Senate gathered at the headquarters that day, that there was an inbound plane just 12 minutes away from them. That room then fell silent.
“They were ordinary people, but on that day, they became extraordinary,” Pence said of the Flight 93 passengers.
Flight 93 had taken off that morning at 8:42 a.m. from Newark and was scheduled to be en route to San Francisco. Just 46 minutes into the flight terrorists took over the plane, the Vice President recounted. At 9:35 a.m. the plane diverted toward Washington, D.C.
…the passengers called their loved only to find out what was happening across the country. They learned what the rest of America knew: The World Trade Center had been struck, the Pentagon had been hit only a few moments after they were hijacked. They figured out that the terrorists intended to use their plane for the same purpose.
But as Tom Burnett told his wife, on the phone, “We’re going to do something.” And they did.
Vice President Pence recounted the quick response of those aboard who devised a plan, gave the Lord’s Prayer, and carried out their objective. He said they said that prayer along with phone operator on the ground Lisa Jefferson, Pence reciting some of those words “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.”
He then repeated the words of passenger Todd Beamer, “Let’s roll.” At 9:57 a.m. those words came just before the heroic passengers’ plan went into motion. “They charged the cockpit. They took hold of their fate, and six minutes later, at 10:03 a.m., Flight 93 plummeted here to the Earth. The brave men and women aboard sacrificed their lives for the country we call home,” said Pence.
Pence spoke of the Tower of Voices that is planned for the Flight 93 crash site. The memorial will feature 40 chimes that each sound its own note, which Pence said will “symbolize the voices of the 40 men and women we remember today. The notes when played together, I’m told, will form a perfect harmony — just as, in their final moments, the men and women of Flight 93 worked together to defend freedom.”
“We honor them by remembering them. And we honor them by ensuring that we do all in our power as a nation to prevent such evil from ever reaching our shores again,” Pence said to applause from the crowd gathered. “As the President has reminded us, we are in the midst of a war between good and evil.”
When the plane went down, the heroes aboard it were the first of a new generation of Americans to rise up, as citizen soldiers, in what would come to be known as the Global War on Terror.
It is remarkable to think that, in the wake of their service and sacrifice, America itself experienced a rebirth — a rebirth of unity, of purpose, and a rededication to our most sacred ideal of freedom.
And every day, for 16 years, their actions have inspired many more of our fellow citizens to stand up, step forward, and follow in their heroic service.
These men & women turned what was a day of tragedy into a triumph of freedom. pic.twitter.com/huNYZOaCli
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) September 11, 2017
The Vice President acknowledged first responders, firefighters, and police officers as well as the “more than five million Americans have stepped forward to serve in the Armed Forces of the United States of America since September 11th.” He added that “nearly 7,000 Americans who have given their lives on the field of battle since that day 16 years ago, today.”
Pence then turned focus on “the threat” that remains and the “menace of global terrorism” which “brings violence across the wider world to places like London and Paris and Barcelona.” He spoke of ISIS in Iraq and Syria plotting against America and her allies.
The Vice President did not specifically mention that the perpetrators were Islamic terrorists, but he said that “the perpetrators of 9/11 organized and orchestrated their attacks from a safe haven of Afghanistan” as he referenced Trump’s recent speech on U.S. presence in that country. He quoted Trump’s words committing the U.S. to “destroy terrorist organizations and the radical ideology that drives them.”
He continued, “America will remain engaged in Afghanistan until we eliminate the terrorist threat to our homeland and our people once and for all.”
Pence stated that it wasn’t the first time he had visited the Flight 93 field. He spoke of visiting with his family when it was a field no more than a plywood wall and a cross in the field, a makeshift memorial. He personalized the events, as he sees the heroic actions of the Flight 93 passengers to thwart the terrorists’ plans as an action that likely saved his own life that day.
“When heroes fall, the nation mourns, for ‘no greater love has a man than this, that he should lay down his life for his friends,’” said Vice President Pence. “As long as America endures, we will tell their story, and generations of Americans will ever be inspired by the faithful and courageous words and deeds of the heroes of Flight 93.”
Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana