Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark A. Milley conducted an observance at the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial in memory of the nearly 3,000 people killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Esper paid tribute today to the survivors who gathered for the Pentagon observance, as well as those who lost loved ones at the World Trade Center in New York City and a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
It was a horrific crime, carried out by evil fanatics who would brutally kill the innocent in the name of their distorted cause, he said.
"Yet, in their attempt to shake the very foundations of our republic, to destroy our way of life, they underestimated our strength, our resolve and our unbreakable spirit," he said.
... Please know that the men and women of the Department of Defense will always be with you as we give our sacred pledge that your loved ones will have not died in vain, so long as we stand watch over this great nation."
Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper
America remembers the first responders and volunteers who rushed toward the fire and smoke repeatedly to rescue those who were trapped and injured, thereby preventing the human toll from becoming worse, he said.
Since 9/11, millions of Americans have stepped up to serve — all swearing that solemn oath to support and defend the Constitution — and with many paying the ultimate price to ensure that such an attack never happens again, Esper said.
Whether denying safe haven to terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq, preventing violent extremists from gaining a foothold on the African continent and elsewhere, or bringing to justice terrorist leaders wherever they hide, the U.S. military continues to defend the homeland and the American way of life, he said.
To the friends and families of those who perished, Esper said, "No words can ever soothe your grief. No act will ever replace your loss. No remembrance will ever fill that void. But please know that the men and women of the Department of Defense will always be with you as we give our sacred pledge that your loved ones will have not died in vain, so long as we stand watch over this great nation."
Milley said the memory and legacy of those killed on 9/11 and those who rushed in to save lives will live on forever.
The horrific acts of terrorism on that day were meant to disrupt the American way of life and destroy the idea that each and every one of us is created free and equal, Milley said.
"Instead of sowing division and strife, we … came together as a nation," he said.
At 9 a.m., all of the names of the victims at the Pentagon were read, a bell was rung as each name was announced, and the individual markers at the Pentagon's memorial were shown. At 9:20 a.m., Esper and Milley participated in a wreath laying at the Pentagon's memorial entrance and made remarks. At 9:37 a.m. there was silence for 30 seconds and taps was played.
American Airlines Flight 77, which was hijacked by five terrorists, was deliberately crashed into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m., killing all 64 on board and 125 inside the building. An indoor and outdoor memorial now exists where the plane struck. The outdoor memorial is normally open to the public. Indoor tours are normally offered, but they have been discontinued until further notice due to the COVID-19 pandemic.