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Public Statements

September 11, 2001

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. Jackson Lee) for 5 minutes.

Ms. JACKSON LEE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, ``My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty.'' God bless America.

I'm glad that we have songs that can capture our spirits and the love that we have for our Nation. I'm reminded of being a child, singing the words, ``My country, 'tis of thee.'' I'm reminded of that day, 9/11, when Members of Congress gathered to stand on the steps of the United States Capitol to sing ``God Bless America.''

I rise today to pay tribute to Americans and a myriad of persons whose lives remain forever changed because of 9/11. We honor and mourn still those who fell on that day. It was the world, a potpourri of personalities, nationalities, languages, different descriptions, and life stories. It was the world that was in America, a country that welcomes all.

Then, of course, there are those of us who are reminded of the rushing in of heroes and ``sheroes,'' NYPD, civilian volunteers, firefighters, Park Police, Federal workers, all in some way helping to save someone's life, fellow office workers, dishwashers, restaurant workers. Some died so that others might live.

I remember very clearly where I was here in the United States Capitol, having a meeting with one of the Cabinet members of the President at that time, deeply involved in work regarding small businesses, going on with the normal daily responsibilities, Members who work on legislation, constituency issues, and oversight over the government.

There was a rattling outside and, of course, phones started ringing, with the technology of that time. We indicated that we were still in the meeting and did not answer until someone banged on the door and said, I don't know what is happening, but you must get out.

Without panic, but certainly with great concern, as you entered the hallways, people were rushing, rushing to come out of this building. As the rumors began to fly or the words began to fly about the White House, the State Department, then, of course, there was the billowing smoke that one could see from the Pentagon. It was real. It was something that we had never, ever seen. Maybe for those who had been in wars preceding us in far-away lands, but not in the 20th century on the soil of the United States of America, or the 21st century.

I stand today with great honor for those who died, those who died in trying to save others and those who did. I am grateful today that we have the opportunity to be able to say thank you, though sadly, to families who remain, to those who now stand in New York reading names, to those who are at the Pentagon who still have the piercing feeling of loss, and certainly those in Pennsylvania, the family members, the surrounding community.

I am grateful that in the last couple of days we finally acknowledged that there is something to those who breathed the smoke, and they are now going to be included for the entity that provides health care for those who were impacted by 9/11 toxic smoke. It took us too long. I'm glad we passed legislation to help the first responders, firefighters, police, and others who suffered catastrophic illnesses after they went in to help those who could not help themselves.

I remember drafting legislation and introducing legislation for the latchkey children, for many of us don't remember that so many children were left at home and no one came home to see them on that fateful day, 9/11. Children now read the names of their parents or loved ones, grandparents. Children grew up without a family member because of the heinous horror, hatred, contempt, and violence.

I hope this Nation on this day comes closer together, that we come together as independents, Republicans, Democrats, and nothing, that we stand as one Nation being able to be reminded of the greatest Nation in the world.

God bless America, for I will say that throughout my life whatever the ups and downs that we may have, this country is great. As I travel around on behalf of the United States of America, visiting those who fought in Iraq and who fought in Afghanistan, I see that they are great because they were willing to sacrifice at the call of the Commander in Chief and the call of their Nation.

Today I come on this floor to honor all of those who were touched by 9/11, and to remind all of us as Members of Congress and the Nation, never yield to the weakness that we are not great. Always our democracy, our love of God, makes us that.

God bless America.

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