* Ms. RICHARDSON. Mr. Speaker, as we approach the tenth anniversary of one of the darkest days in American history, I would like to use my time to remember those we've lost, reflect on the lessons we've learned, and consider what we can do as a nation to ensure that an attack of this magnitude never occurs on American soil again.
* Mr. Speaker, as America helplessly watched the terrifying images of thick clouds of grey smoke rising from the World Trade Center towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, emotions of shock, anger, fear, and tremendous sadness washed over the body politic. Never having experienced an attack of this magnitude on American soil before, the events which unfolded on 9/11 engendered a profound shift in the way we conceptualize national security and left an indelible impact on the psyche of every American citizen. This was a day that would have a profound impact on the way every American lives, and would shift a large amount of our country's focus and resources toward a new challenge: the Global War on Terror.
* In the days after the 9/11 attacks, we were introduced to a man named Osama bin Laden and the organization he led, al-Qaeda. These previously esoteric monikers became ubiquitous terms synonymous with hate, terror, and anger. Yet, despite the dastardly events that unfolded on that day ten years ago, tales of selfless acts of heroism and tremendous bravery in the face of evil--indicative of the American spirit--made us proud and provided a ray of hope in the fog of uncertainty.
* Ten years later, it is important to reflect on the lessons we learned from those brave men, women and children who were unjustly taken from us that day. My heart still aches for all 2,819 people we lost in the attacks, including the 343 firefighters and paramedics, 60 police officers, and those on board United Airlines 93, American Airlines 77, American Airlines 11, and United Airlines 175. We remember the bravery of the PDNY and NYPD first responders who courageously ran up the World Trade Center towers, while thousands of others rapidly evacuated. We also remember the remarkable story of those on United 93 who attempted to regain control of the cockpit after their flight had been hijacked by a group of terrorists that pointed the aircraft in the direction of the building where I currently stand.
* I would also like to remember those who still suffer, whose hearts still ache over the loss of so many innocent and interrupted lives. My heart goes out to the 3,051 children who lost a parent, and to the spouses, parents and relatives of the victims. Just as we promised shortly after the attacks, we will never forget.
* In the days and months following 9/11, we saw the true strength of the American people. It was during these times that people were able to momentarily suspend all political, regional, ethnic, and economic divisions to mourn and seek hope in one another. We healed as a Nation; we grew as a Nation. The petty differences that we so often magnify in our society were put aside and we focused on what we had to do to keep our country moving forward in the face of such adversity.
* In the decade since 9/11--thanks to American vigilance, resilience, and resolve--al-Qaeda has been unsuccessful in carrying-out another attack on our Nation's soil. Several plots by would-be terrorists trained by al-Qaeda have been foiled by our Nation's intelligence agencies and local law enforcement, including a 2009 plot to bomb New York City's subway and a 2010 plot to place explosive devices on cargo planes entering the U.S.
* Our military campaign in Afghanistan successfully overthrew the tyrannical Taliban and significantly hampered the power and mobility of al-Qaeda and its sympathizers. After years of dedicated service by the brave men and women who put country above self in our armed forces, America is safer and Afghanistan is now a fledgling democratic society. However, these accomplishments came with a price. Since 2011, the U.S. has spent over $1.2 trillion on Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. We also paid for these wars with the lives of 6,026 of our bravest young men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country. In my district, we suffered the loss of 12 remarkable servicemen. We remember Long Beach residents: Pfc. Stephen A. Castellano; Sgt. 1st Class Randy D. Collins; Sgt. Anthony J. Davis, Jr.; Sgt. Israel Garcia; Pvt. Ernesto R. Guerra; Pfc. Lyndon A. Marcus, Jr.; Spec. Roberto L. Martinez Salazar; Spec. Astor A. Sunsin-Pineda; Pfc. David T. Toomalatai; Pfc. George D. Torres; and Staff Sgt. Joshua Whitaker, as well as Carson resident Pfc. Daniel P. Cagle of Carson who were all killed in action.
* As the troops in the battlefields of Afghanistan begin their withdrawal, we are reminded of the reasons why we entered the war in the first place: to exact justice on those responsible for the attacks on 9/11 and to eliminate their sympathizers' ability to conduct a similar attack in the future. In those two regards, I would argue that we have been extraordinarily successful. Perhaps the most consequential victory of the War on Terror came earlier this year when Osama bin Laden's life was finally ended by a group of Navy SEALs who deftly carried-out a covert operation at bin Laden's secret compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. I am extremely thankful for President Obama and his Administration's firm leadership in the effort to bring bin Laden to justice. The sense of victory experienced by Americans after the death of Osama bin Laden was so powerful that it seemed to carry us into a new chapter of the War on Terror, one less concerned with fighting the enemy overseas and one more concerned with protecting our citizens at home.
* Therefore, I believe that now is the appropriate time to begin a significant withdrawal of troops from war zones in Afghanistan and other parts of the Arab world. Committing millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars to nation building abroad at a time when millions of Americans are unemployed and struggling represents a fundamental misallocation of resources. While keeping the American people safe should always be our top priority, more resources need to be focused protecting our homeland and educating, training and employing the beleaguered American workforce.
* We have come a long way in the past 10 years, and we should be proud of the progress we've made as a nation adapting to a post-9/11 world. However, we still have a long way to go to ensure that an attack similar to those on 9/11 never happen in the U.S. again. As Ranking Member of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications, I am keenly aware of the improvements that need to be made in order to keep the American people safe. For example, I represent a district that is home to the largest port complex in the nation. Each year, over 350,000 containers of cargo pass through the Port Los Angeles alone. These large shipping containers provide would-be terrorists with an excellent way to get hazardous materials into the country. That is why I am a strong proponent of working toward the implementation of a 100% container check rule on ports around the nation. This will ensure that cargo entering the U.S. is safe and will provide peace of mind to millions of Americans who reside near our Nation's ports.
* Finally, Mr. Speaker, I would like to say that despite some questionable decision making during the previous administration, our country is stronger and safer than ever before. Although we still have a long way to go, the progress we've made in the last decade to secure our homeland from attack by unconventional forces should make everyone proud. Again, my heart goes out to the families of those who were lost during the attacks and to those who lost their lives fighting the perpetrators of those tragic events. While our country must never stop moving forward, we must also never forget. The victims of 9/11 are not forgotten.