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For Immediate Release
June 16, 2005
Mrs. Cheney's Remarks at Pentagon Memorial Fund
The Madison Hotel
Thank you very much. I appreciate the very kind introduction, Don, and the opportunity to join you this morning. Don Graham and Peter Nostrand, thank you so much for hosting this breakfast, and for the outstanding support the Washington Post Company and Sun Trust Bank have given to the Pentagon Memorial Fund. And let me thank all of you for being here today. It's wonderful to be part of this event, because it brings the Memorial Fund one step closer to the success of a beautiful and worthy project.
As Don Graham noted, Dick served four years as secretary of defense, going to work each morning at the Pentagon. And he had such tremendous respect for the career officers, enlisted and civilian personnel who work in that building. One of the reasons that was such a memorable experience is the opportunity it gave him to know what an amazing group they are and what great camaraderie they have. The Pentagon, of course, is enormous, with many thousands of people on duty. And yet because of the shared mission of national security, the patriotic culture of the defense department, and the traditions of the armed services, there is a very strong bond among all who work there. So in the aftermath of September 11th, 2001, when workers brought out that gigantic American flag and draped it near the hole in the building, the gesture captured perfectly the feelings of solidarity and resolve felt throughout the Pentagon, and throughout our country.
That image lingers, for all of us, as a symbol of strength and determination. And now that the Pentagon has been rebuilt, stone by stone, it is time to add a permanent place of honor to remember those who died there on 9/11.
One of our great strengths as a nation is that we look ahead. Americans have always been oriented to the future. But we are even stronger when we also look back and remember and honor those who have gone before us.
We have learned so much about the innocent victims of that day - and because we live in Washington, many of us know people directly affected by the attack. With the crew of Flight 77 were business travelers, and vacationers, and boys and girls on a school trip - children with their whole lives ahead of them. In the west side of the Pentagon, workers included people in the early stages of the careers, and a budget analyst who had worked at the Pentagon for 30 years. The youngest of the 184 who died at the Pentagon was three years old; the oldest was 71.
It was all so awful - and it occurred in the very midst of ordinary life in our community. We have all taken flights out of Dulles; the Pentagon is such a familiar sight ... and to have seen all of it in a picture of violence is almost impossible to absorb. None of the people who boarded that plane, or who stepped off the Metro or parked their cars and walked into the Pentagon, could have had the slightest inkling that they would be among the first casualties of a war. The events of 9/11 were an attack on our country and on our ideals. As Americans we also regard them as individual acts of murder - against men, women, and children who had every right to live out that day, safe from harm, as citizens of a free country.
The Pentagon Memorial is intended to mark a moment in time; to remember what happened, and to whom it happened. I hope all of you have had a chance to see the design plan for the Memorial. It is stunning. Out of well over a thousand entries submitted, Julie Beckman and Keith Kaseman have given us a design that is dignified, deeply symbolic, and beautiful to behold. Each one of the lost is honored as an individual. At the same time, all are honored together in a park that is expansive, welcoming to visitors, and incredibly graceful. As Julie Beckman said, "It's a place where two people can be, or thousands can be." The design reflects tremendous credit on the talent and sensitivity of these two fine designers. And when the project is completed, it will be a dramatic and poignant addition to the grounds of the Pentagon.
We've heard it said that a nation reveals itself in its choice of heroes - and that is so true. Yet we reveal our national character in so many other ways: in the ideals we uphold, in the promises we make, in the causes we serve, and in the memorials we build. This city and this country were so profoundly touched by the events of 9/11. We are still so greatly moved by the stories of loss and heroism, by the bravery of the families, and by the hope that survives. And very soon, thanks in part to the generosity of all of you in this room, a lovely memorial will soon be raised up that truly expresses the compassion, the faith, and the good heart of the American people.
Thank you very much.