Its hard to imagine that its been 12 years. In some ways so much has changed and in some ways so much remains the same. Physically there has been much progress. The stunning memorial that has been built, office buildings that have been built, the Freedom Tower now an international symbol of New Yorks resilience. But despite the billions spent, despite all the years of construction, some things remain the same and some things should remain the same at Ground Zero. The reality is that Ground Zero witnessed the worst of humanity and at the same moment, the best of humanity. It is the site where we lost 2,606 souls that day, among them 403 first responders, 343 firefighters, including 11 firefighters from Rescue 1; but tens of thousands of New Yorkers were led to safety by these heroes.
This morning we took the ride that the Rescue 1 firefighters would have taken 12 years ago when they got the call to leave the firehouse early that September day. And I imagine that they knew that they were headed into danger, and I imagine that on that ride they were thinking about their sons and their daughters and they were thinking about their husbands or wives and their mothers and their fathers. But they continued on the ride, straight and strong, without deviation and without delay. And they made a point that is as true that morning as it is today they proved to the world that strength and courage will always conquer weakness and cowardice. That duty and honor and service are paramount. They are words to live by and yes they are words to die by. And that the American spirit, defended by proud New Yorkers, will not be defeated. That lesson and that example lives today as powerful as it was 12 years ago. And it will live on in our hearts every day to guide and to inspire. That will be true for generations to come. May God bless the families of the victims, may God bring them peace, and may God bless the State of New York and the United States of America.