Good afternoon. I would like to share with you a few thoughts on this important and somber day.
For me, 9/11 brought Americans together like few other events in our lifetime. I was only a mile or so away when American Airlines Flight 77 hit the Pentagon at 9:37 in the morning. I'll never forget it.
Today, 10 years after the worst terrorist attack in our nation's history -- a senseless, horrific act that claimed nearly 3,000 innocent lives -- we find ourselves asking an important question: Is America a safer place today? Unfortunately, there's no easy answer.
In some respects, we are much safer than before 9/11, yet today the world itself is a much more dangerous place where shaky regimes, struggling democracies and teetering economies have destabilized entire countries and regions. So it's imperative that we remain vigilant at all times.
When I first learned of Osama Bin Laden's death on May 1st, I couldn't help but think of 72-year-old Barbara Keating of Palm Springs, a member and volunteer at St. Theresa Catholic Church, who died when American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center. For me, Barbara came to symbolize why America had to remain absolutely committed, no matter what the cost, to bring all of the 9/11 terrorists -- and most importantly, Osama Bin Laden -- to justice.
From the dedication of our troops to the relentless spirit of our intelligence community, our nation has so much to be proud of today -- especially for the bravery of the Navy's elite Seal Team Six and the CIA, who work quietly in the shadows, knowing they will never be part of a ticker tape parade. But unlike the 20th century when we celebrated the end of a world war and sent our soldiers home as heroes, this is just a brief lull in the fighting as terrorists around the world plot to strike back. And they will.
Without its founder and operational leader, Al-Qaeda has been dealt a serious blow. Can it survive? Only time will tell. But we do know that there are millions of extremists -- from all corners of the world -- who hate the United States, our way of life and the freedoms we enjoy as individuals and as a nation. We must recognize that we are involved in a generation-long war, and this isn't the time to let down our guard.
The hunt for Bin Laden should also leave us with a lasting appreciation of the value of good intelligence work. It can be tedious, dangerous and thankless, but it's essential to the safety of the United States. Often criticized in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, how many Americans are alive today because of the dedication of our military, law enforcement agencies and intelligence analysts?
Bin Laden was finally brought down because of years of painstaking work, chasing down leads that often resulted in dead ends or missed opportunities. Yet at other times, by simply taking a single piece of information and putting it together with another piece of information, a tough-to-figure-out puzzle suddenly began to come together. In the end, the diabolic mastermind of 9/11 met up with American justice.
Today, on this very somber occasion, let us remember that the cost of freedom cannot be measured simply in dollars spent or lives lost. It's measured in the enduring spirit of a nation that values freedom above all.
God bless America. And God bless the victims of September 11, 2001. May they rest in peace.