Ten years ago, I drove by the Pentagon building just after it had been attacked. The black smoke was rising over the building as service members, firefighters, and civilians struggled to save lives. As I made my way to Capitol Hill, I was on the phone with my staff learning about the attacks on the World Trade Center.
The attacks were sudden, and the fear that there would be more attacks was immense and real. We have now gone ten years without a major terrorist attack here in the United States.
While there have been a handful of demented individuals who have committed atrocities, there have been no chemical, nuclear or biological attacks. There have been no suicide bombers on American soil. There were no great buildings, bridges, or tunnels destroyed.
The terrorists certainly worked to make all these things happen. It is only because of the vigilance of exceptional Americans that we have come to this anniversary without any further great tragedy. It is because some remained vigilant.
Patrick Henry, in his famous "Give me liberty or give me death" address recounted what it takes to win the battle. He said:
"We shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, who will raise friends to fight our battles for us. The battle sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave."
Today, there are United States citizens and friends of our nation who remain vigilant, active, and brave.
The terrorist threat to our country remains potent. The ideology of hate that motivated the 9/11 attacks has not subsided. There are still many who plot in secret to attack Americans here and abroad.
While there are conspirators around the globe planning harm, we also have intelligence agencies working 24 hours a day to identify terrorists before they can attack. Our own agencies work closely with friends around the globe to disrupt terrorist cells and foil their plans.
In our communities we have police officers, firefighters, and EMTs who maintain a constant vigil. They prepare for the worst, and stand ready to protect and rescue should another attack come.
Right now, our soldiers, sailors, and airmen are actively engaged in the fight against terrorism. They are risking their lives across the globe battling individuals who plot evil.
This activity was most clearly seen just a few months ago when a SEAL team stormed Osama bin Laden's Pakistani hideout.
After his escape from Tora Bora in 2001, it might have been easy for us to write off bin Laden, to say that he was only a figurehead. Instead, dedicated intelligence personnel worked for years to track him down.
They dedicated their lives to bringing this evil man to justice. Then after meticulous intelligence work, they handed off the mission to experienced warfighters who carried out their mission with precision at incredible risk.
We must never forget that the risk is great. That is why bravery is a requirement for those serving in the frontlines. We saw some of our best-trained warfighters killed in Afghanistan only a few weeks ago. In modern warfare, even the hardiest warfighter can lose his life in a split second.
Every one of our military personnel places their life in great peril in order to prevent violence being visited upon the innocent. They show their courage time and time again. We cannot thank them enough for sacrificing safety and security.
Thomas Paine, writing to the founding fathers of our nation said: "Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly."
The vigilant, the active, and the brave; they are the ones who keep us safe today and build a brighter future for our nation. These are the ones who know the true cost of freedom and treasure it more because of the battles they have fought on our behalf.