Ambassador J. Thomas Schieffer Speaks at 9/11 Commemorative Ceremony

U.S. Embassy, Japan
September 11, 2006

(As prepared for delivery)

In a few minutes it will be five years since the world crossed a terrible threshold. None of us thought then that the American morning of September 11th, 2001 would be any different than any other. Yet, we know now that it was.

As the years passed, we came to realize that the terrible events of that terrible day changed our world forever. None of us will ever again pass through an airport or cross a border without feeling the effects of 9/11.

Terrorism was not invented on that day, but it came home to us in such a way that we will never forget it. We gather tonight to remember the innocent who were taken from us as they went about their daily lives. They came from almost half the nations of the world. They spoke many languages and practiced many faiths. They were young and old, strong and weak. On that day, they did no wrong, argued no cause, committed no crime. On that day they were the soul of innocence, yet it was their fate to be struck down by the face of evil.

Then and now we wonder how human beings professing faith in a just God could do such an unjust act. We will never know. The men who did this monstrous thing were lost to humanity long before they hijacked those planes. Hatred had poisoned their souls. They wanted their deeds to change the world and in some ways they did but in the important things, they utterly failed.

We were reminded that heroes walk among us everyday waiting only for a call to duty. We were reminded that the human spirit is still selfless, that helping others even in the face of incredible danger is not beyond us and most of all we were reminded of what still motivates and moves us to do our best.

When those brave men and women trapped in buildings and airplanes knew that the end was near, they used their cell phones to send us a powerful message. None of them called their bankers to see how much money they had, none of them called their stockbrokers to make one last deal, none of them called their enemies to say that they were sorry they never had a chance to get even. One by one they called their families and their friends to leave one last message, "I love you."

Sometimes, since that awful day, we have forgotten how we felt toward each other then. We should not. Civilization took a terrible blow but we were not broken. We were proud of those firemen and policemen who saved thousands only to perish themselves. We were proud of those passengers on that plane that crashed in Pennsylvania who were willing to give up their lives so that no more innocents would be killed. And we were proud of countless men and women who did extraordinary things to remind us that love and not hate must be the guiding light in our lives.

The terrorists failed that day. They did not end our humanity, they strengthened it. They did not change our values, they reinforced them. They did not rob us of our goodness, they gave us a chance to show it. And in the end, that is why we will prevail and they will not.

Now, I ask you to join with me in a moment of silence for the brave men and women who were killed on September 11th, 2001.