The White House
Office of the First Lady
Remarks by the First Lady at September 11th Memorial Service
Flight 93 National Memorial Site
10:28 A.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you so much, Joanne, for that very kind introduction. It is a privilege and an honor to be here today as we pay tribute to the men and women of Flight 93.
I want to acknowledge Secretary Salazar, Governor Rendell, and Gordon Felt, and I want to thank them all for their leadership and for their service.
I also want to thank Reverends Britton and Way, for leading us in prayer.
And I want to particularly recognize and thank Mrs. Bush –- not just for her moving words today, but for being such a source of love and support for the families of Flight 93, and for all her work to help our nation heal in the days and months after the attack. Thank you so much. (Applause.)
I come here today not just as First Lady, on behalf of my husband and a grateful nation. I come as an American, filled with a sense of awe at the heroism of my fellow citizens. I come as a wife, a daughter, and a sister, heartbroken at the loss so many of you have endured. And I come as a mother, thinking about what my daughters, and what all of our sons and daughters, can learn from the 40 men and women whose memories we honor today.
The men and women of Flight 93 were college students and grandparents. They were businessmen, pilots, and flight attendants. There was a writer, an antique dealer, a lawyer, an engineer.
They came from all different backgrounds and all walks of life, and they all took a different path to that September morning.
But in that awful moment when the facts became clear, and they were called to make an impossible choice, they all found the same resolve.
They agreed to the same bold plan.
They called the people they loved –- many of them giving comfort instead of seeking it, explaining they were taking action, and that everything would be okay.
And then they rose as one, they acted as one, and together, they changed history’s course.
And in the days that followed, when we learned about the heroes of Flight 93 and what they had done, we were proud, we were awed, we were inspired, but I don’t think any of us were really surprised, because it was clear that these 40 individuals were no strangers to service and to sacrifice. For them, putting others before themselves was nothing new because they were veterans, and coaches, and volunteers of all sorts of causes.
There was the disability rights advocate who carried a miniature copy of the Constitution everywhere she went.
There was the Census director who used to return to the homes she’d canvassed to drop off clothing and food for families in need.
There was the couple who quietly used their wealth to make interest-free loans to struggling families.
And to this day, they remind us -– not just by how they gave their lives, but by how they lived their lives -– that being a hero is not just a matter of fate, it’s a matter of choice.
I think that Jack Grandcolas put it best –- his wife, Lauren, was one of the passengers on the flight -- and he said: “They were ordinary citizens thrown into a combat situation. No one was a general or a dictator. Their first thought was to be selfless. They knew ‘There was a 98 percent chance we’re not going to make it, but let’s save others’.”
The men and women on that plane had never met the people whose lives they would save -– yet they willingly made the sacrifice.
And before September 11th, the people of this community didn’t know any of the families here today -– yet they embraced them as their own, inviting them into their homes, guarding this sacred spot day after day, lovingly cataloguing every item –- memento, every photograph, every letter left at the temporary memorial.
And over the past nine years, more than 1 million people have come here to pay their respects, to express their gratitude, and to try, in their own small way, to ease the burden of these families’ grief by honoring the people they loved.
And all of this reminds us that while this memorial begins here in Shanksville, it doesn’t end at the edges of this field.
It extends to all those they saved, whose lives today are possible because they gave theirs.
It extends to all those they inspired, who thought to themselves: If they can do something that extraordinary with their lives, then maybe, just maybe, it’s time I made something more of mine.
Maybe it’s time I wore my country’s uniform. Maybe it’s time I gave more to my community. Maybe it’s time for me to be a better friend, a better neighbor, a better American.
And most of all, this memorial extends to all their families, whose lives were shaped by their love.
And I’m thinking especially today of the children -- toddlers who have grown into young men and women, teenagers who’ve become adults who will one day bring their own children to this place and tell them about the proud legacy they inherit.
Sonali Beaven was just five years old when she lost her father. And even in the midst the shock and the heartbreak of first hearing the news, she said to her mother: “I am so sad…but I am not the saddest girl in the whole world, because children lost their mommy and daddy.”
Muriel Borza, who’s here with us today, was just 10 when she lost her sister, Deora. And in a speech on the one-year anniversary, she called for a worldwide moment of peace, and she asked people –- and this is her quote -- to “…make a pledge to do a good deed that will help mankind in some small way, even if it’s a hug, a kiss, a smile or wave, a prayer or just silent thought of those they love.”
And I know that all the young people here have done their very best to be strong for their families, and to hold the memories of their loved ones close, and to live their lives in a way that would make them proud.
And I know it hasn’t been easy.
While grief has its own course for each of us, and no one can presume to know what your families have felt, I can imagine that there are days when the pain is still raw, when the time and distance of those nine years falls away, and that loss is still fresh.
But I can also imagine that as time has passed, there have been more good days, more moments when you’re able to find joy and comfort in happy memories.
And I can imagine that, on those better days, maybe sometimes you worry about whether, in moving on, you may in some way be leaving your loved ones behind.
But I can’t help but think that it’s actually just the opposite –- that in having the courage to move forward, you honor their courage; that in choosing to live your own lives as fully as you can, you’re celebrating theirs; that in coming together, and pushing ahead to build this permanent memorial, you’re ensuring that their memory will always be a part, not just of your own lives, but of the life of this nation.
And know that because you kept going, and because you persevered, that long after you’re gone, people will come here -- continue to come here -- to Shanksville.
And they will stand at this plaza, and listen to the echoes of those chimes, and gaze out at this field.
And they will see how a scar in the earth has healed; how it has grown back as a peaceful resting place for 40 of our nation’s heroes.
They will understand that because of all of you, a site of devastation and destruction was transformed into a place of reverence and remembrance.
And it is truly my prayer today that in the years ahead, all who come here -– and all of you –- may be filled with the hope that is written in the Book of Psalms: “Though you may have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.”
May the memories of those who gave their lives here continue to be a blessing to all of you, and an inspiration to all Americans.
Thank you all, God bless you, and God bless America. (Applause.)
END 10:40 A.M. EDT