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Mr. Speaker, it was a clear, cool morning in America 8 years ago on September 11. The sun had risen, and people of the Nation went to work. I was driving my Jeep to the courthouse in Texas, where I served as a judge at the time.
KILT Radio, in Houston, interrupted a Willie Nelson song and reported that a plane had crashed into a tower at the World Trade Center. Then a second plane had hit the other tower in New York City. I, like many others on the road that day, pulled over to the side and listened intensely to the radio, and heard about a third plane crashing somewhere in Pennsylvania and yet a fourth plane deliberately hitting the Pentagon.
They were from every State in the United States, from 115 foreign countries and were of all races and nationalities. They were men and women and America's young people. At the end of the day, 2,819 people did not return home to the people they loved; 343 were firefighters and paramedics; 23 were New York City police officers; 37 were Port Authority officers; 125 were working for the military at the Pentagon; and 266 others were passengers on airlines.
These were the victims of the attack on America on September 11, 2001. The enemy we faced and still face killed in the name of religion the innocence of this Nation.
America is great because of people like the passengers on Flight 93, who called their loved ones and said goodbye and then said, "Let's roll." They knew it was up to them to stop the terrorists on that plane. They were unarmed and already had seen others murdered before their eyes, but they did what it took to stop the terrorists from doing whatever the terrorists had planned to do to our Nation. It didn't matter whether they were flying into the Capitol or into the White House or exactly what they were going to do. The passengers of flight 93 were not going to let them do it no matter what it was. They saved innocent lives on the ground when they forced that plane down in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
What makes America great is her people--ordinary Americans who strap on hundreds of pounds of gear and who run into a building that's on fire to help people who are scared and injured and who don't know where to go to be safe. They are paramedics and police officers and firemen and Port Authority officers who climbed hundreds of flights of steps, climbing up while everyone else was trying to get out of a building that was on fire.
They went into those darkened stairwells even after one building had collapsed, even after they knew that hundreds of their friends and family members and coworkers had just likely been killed when that first building came down. They kept on trying to save people whose lives they had been trained to save and to be responsible for. They took an oath and stood for that oath, and we would hope that we would all do the same. That's what makes America the rare breed. Through the smoke, the fire, the dust, and the debris, these extraordinary people showed the world exactly what an American hero looks like.
What sets Americans apart is the bravery of the people who face challenges. We are continuing to be underestimated because no other country in the world can understand what an American feels when confronted with the type of evil that confronted us on September 11, 2001.
At the end of the day on September 11, 2001, I, like most Americans, was mesmerized in front of the TV, watching video of the attack on our Nation. I noticed that, when the planes hit the World Trade Center, thousands of people--good people--sought safety from the terror in the skies, but there was another group, a handful of people--that rare breed--who, when the planes hit those buildings, ran as hard as they could to confront that terror.
Who were they?
Well, they were the emergency medical technicians; they were firefighters; they were police officers; and they were just regular Americans. Their first inclination was not to run and hide. Their first inclination was to fight back, and that's exactly what they did. They showed the pride that we feel in our country when we see the flag waving and say, These colors don't run. We mean it.
So, Mr. Speaker, while it's important to remember those who died that day 8 years ago, it's just as important to remember those who got to live and who had another chance at life because America's first responders were there and answered the call to defend America.
And that's just the way it is.
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