Sep 11, 2020
Kamala Harris 2020 9/11 Memorial Speech Transcript
Senator and Democratic vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris spoke at a memorial event for the nineteenth anniversary of September 11. Read her 2020 9/11 memorial speech here.
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Chief Butler: (00:00)
An honorable day. This morning I was getting dressed to come over here and I took a moment and said, “Gosh, it still stings. It stings.” 19 years later, it’s not rote. It’s not just a thing. Taking a moment, sitting on that sofa and kind of welling up for a second, like I’m glad I still well up. I’m glad it still stings and I hope we never forget. We say those words but we need to re-promise and continue to live those words.
Chief Butler: (00:36)
So how is that for a starter? Welcome and thanks for being here. We have some of our esteemed guests but today is really about those who went into a building and never came back, knowing they might not come back. For those who went to work to do their noble jobs and never came back. With that, I want to introduce who we have here today. We have Chairman Jeff McKay, Senator Warner, Senator Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff. At this time please join me in standing up as we take a moment. At 10:28 a.m., you will hear an announcement come over loudspeakers just so you know what’s about to happen.
Speaker 2: (03:18)
[inaudible 00:03:18] officers and emergency medical services personnel, [inaudible 00:03:32] World Trade Center lost their lives [inaudible 00:03:42].
Chief Butler: (05:29)
Thank you. You can please take your seats. At this time I’ll ask Chairman Jeff McKay to come up and say a few words. Sorry [inaudible 00:05:36].
Jeff McKay: (05:40)
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much Chief Butler and good morning everyone. Pleased that so many of you have joined us today albeit for a solemn occasion. It is hard to believe that it was 19 years ago because I’m sure everyone here can remember exactly where you were and what you were doing 19 years ago, I know I can. I was sitting at the Sherwood Hall Library with then-Supervisor Gerry Highland and we were debating a land use case and quickly we realized how unimportant that was in the greater scheme of things and what we deal with as a society. We stand here today in the midst of a pandemic, wearing masks, and it is an all too familiar reminder that our frontline workers, our first responders, are at greater risk in the jobs that are already risky that they do every day when they get up and they put their uniforms on to go to work.
Jeff McKay: (06:38)
What we are really here today to do is remember the many lives that were lost and this is raw for us here because the Pentagon is so close to where we are. So many of you first responders changed your course on September 11 as our mutual aid agreements clicked in and we were what we always are which is one public safety family taking care of each other and taking care of our citizens. We are here today to remember each and every person, innocent people whose lives were taken on 9/11 and the brave men and women who went in to save lives only to lose their own. We stand here proudly today with our men and women in public safety and we understand the risks that you and your family take on every day to protect our public and we think about that and all of us, I know after September 11 thought about what we could personally do, what we could personally do to help our country through very trying times and just the little things that some of us can do make a big difference. For me personally it was after 9/11 that I joined as a volunteer reserve deputy in our sheriff’s office to understand better what our men and women go through on a daily basis in public safety but really to step up and serve our county and serve our community.
Jeff McKay: (08:10)
We all need to think about even now 19 years later what can we do to make a difference in our community and build solidarity of country, like the solidarity that we had after the 9/11 events. So let us remember and pray for all the victims and our first responders, today and every day, as we advance in Fairfax County and before I introduce our next speaker, let me also acknowledge my partners on the Board of Supervisors who have joined us here today, starting with Supervisor Walter Alcorn of the Hunter Mill District, Supervisor James Walkinshaw of the Braddock District, and Supervisor Dalia Palchik from the Providence District. Thank you all for joining us today and for your dedication to the county.
Jeff McKay: (09:08)
My next opportunity is to introduce to you our senior senator from Virginia and someone who has been a true partner to us in Fairfax County and all that we do, whether it is supporting federal funds for our Virginia Task Force 1 Urban Search and Rescue Team which is absolutely an outstanding program that puts our Fairfax County mark out there for the world to see with empathy, helping people across the globe through trying times. Mark Warner has been there to support our initiatives when we need federal funding in Fairfax County and I’m proud to introduce to you our senior senator from Virginia, Senator Mark Warner.
Mark Warner: (09:53)
Well thank you Jeff, good morning. It’s hard to believe that it’s been 19 years. Like Jeff, and I think every one of us here, completely remember where you were when you first heard. 19 years ago, not unlike even today, I was involved in a campaign, I was running for governor. I had just gotten a haircut and was going back to the campaign headquarters and somebody said, “Go home and turn on the TV.” The big debate was supposed to come and suddenly, echoing what Jeff said, that big debate didn’t seem that important at all as we saw terrorists attack us in New York City, the tragedy at Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and right here in the Commonwealth of Virginia at the Pentagon.
Mark Warner: (10:57)
I remember going that day to my office which was right on the Arlington-Alexandria border and literally seeing smoke for hours on end billowing out of the Pentagon and I saw and knew that day as well how first responders, fire, police, EMTs, some who are here today, responded in a way that literally rushed into danger to try to help those whose lives were at risk. We saw similar activities in New York and Pennsylvania as well, and for the days and weeks afterwards, all of the differences that had seemed so important before disappeared and first, second and foremost, we were all Americans. We honor for these last 19 years the commitment of those first responders, those who died in that tragedy, and we still hold their memories and offer condolences to the families who still grieve. But we also need to take that sense of all being in it together and renew that spirit today because today as well, we face tragedy as well. A pandemic that has now cost the lives of 190,000 Americans and over six million of us who have had the virus. That same spirit that invited all of us after 9/11 needs to be rekindled today. We will get through this tragedy as we will as we came out of 9/11.
Mark Warner: (12:46)
So again, my thanks to all those first responders and I know the chief said I think there were six or still in current service who responded that day at the Pentagon. We can never thank you enough for what you’ve done and what you continue to do and for all your brothers and sisters who help keep us safe day in and day out. God bless you and God bless the United States of America. It’s now my honor to present to you someone who I work with, someone who’s a friend, someone who understands whether you’re fire, police, EMT, the enormous challenges you have as first responders. Kamala Harris has served as district attorney in the city of San Francisco. Kamala Harris served for two terms as the attorney general of the state of California. She understands the challenges you face each and every day. I have had the opportunity to get to know her as a colleague and a friend, as someone who we served together on the Intelligence Committee. She understands what a dangerous world that we live in but she also understands the absolutely critical role that first responders and our military play in keeping our country safe and she understands that that kind of strong American leadership in a very dangerous world is needed today more than ever. My great honor and privilege to present to you United States Senator Kamala Harris.
Kamala Harris: (14:35)
Thank you Senator Warner and I must say to all of the people of the great commonwealth of Virginia that you have an extraordinary leader in Mark Warner. I work with him when the cameras are on and when the cameras are off and he is the same person, always fighting for the best of who we are as a nation and fighting for the people of Virginia, so thank you Mark for your friendship and for your work. I’m honored to be here today on this somber day, remembering those 19 years ago as we all do. I was in California. It was early in the morning there, I was actually at the gym and then the images started to come on the TVs and everyone stopped, got off their equipment, and we all stood around in utter disbelief, in utter disbelief. Strangers were hugging each other. People that had never spoken to each other before were holding each other and crying.
Kamala Harris: (15:47)
Out of that tragedy and as we try to reconcile and understand what was happening, without any reflection, we as Americans, as our first reaction, without pause, was to hug and hold each other. Perfect strangers. Understanding at our core without reflection, without thinking about it, that we’re all in this together. We’re all in this together. And as we honor and remember those who sacrificed so much, who ran in harm’s way to protect people they’d never met, to stand strong. As we honor their memories these 19 days later, let us also remember that honoring them is also about reminding us of who we are as Americans. Because in times of tragedy, in times of despair, in times of suffering and pain, we by our very nature as who we are, we stand together. We stand together, understanding we are all in this together.
Kamala Harris: (17:33)
And so as we honor them, let’s remember that about who we are as a nation and I want to thank Chief Butler for bringing us together. My deepest thanks of course to our active duty military, our veterans and our military families for their service and to all of the first responders here today. My brother-in-law is a firefighter in California and it is personal to me as well as Mark said throughout my career. Part of my life’s work to stand with each of you and I thank you for the sacrifice that you are prepared to make every day you walk out of your homes. And the sacrifices your family makes when they bid you off as you go, wearing that uniform, while they say a silent prayer that you will come home at the end of your shift. I thank you all for the work you do and I know I speak for everyone here and millions more when I say we are so deeply proud of you, and eternally grateful for your sacrifice and for your courage and it is a pleasure, Chief, you told us that some of the heroes from that day 19 years ago are still right here, serving this community, and I thank you on behalf of all of us for the consistency of your dedication to your country.
Kamala Harris: (19:11)
So today we honor those lost in New York, Pennsylvania and right here in Virginia. We remember the passengers and crew members, the firefighters, law enforcement, peace officers and military personnel. We remember that they were more than victims of an unspeakable act. They were also parents and sons and daughters and neighbors and friends and we know that they will never be defined by the story of those who stole them away. No, they will be defined by their humanity, by their stories, by their laughter that still echoes in the homes and hearts of those who love them. What our attackers fail to understand is that the darkness they hoped would envelop us on 9/11 instead summoned our most radiant and defined human instincts. The instinct to care for one another, to transcend our divisions, and see ourselves as fellow citizens. To race toward danger and risk everything to protect each other. The instinct to unite. If we learned anything watching the heroes of 9/11, it’s that the strength of the human spirit knows no bounds and that even the gravest threats against us only serve to reveal our true strength. That our capacity to act with love and courage in the face of immense challenge is what defines us as Americans.
Kamala Harris: (21:01)
I’m humbled to be here and to join in this moment and I wish and I pray that the cherished memory of those who served reminds us both of who they were as individuals but also of who we are as a nation. Thank you for including me in today’s ceremony. May God bless their memories and our troops and the United States of America. Thank you.