Bush, Clinton speak at memorial for Flight 93
September 10th, 2011
03:56 PM ET
7 years ago

Bush, Clinton speak at memorial for Flight 93

(CNN) – Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton spoke solemnly Saturday at the unveiling of the memorial for victims of United Airlines Flight 93.

“With their brave decision, they launched the first counteroffensive in the war on terror,” said Bush, who appeared emotional as he spoke near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, to families and friends of those who died in the crash.

All 40 passengers and crew members were killed after confronting hijackers aboard the Boeing 757 on the morning of September 11, 2001.

The hijacked plane, widely believed to be targeting the White House or the U.S. Capitol, crashed in a field outside Shanksville.

Recounting heroic details on the flight just moments before it ended, Bush said, “What happened above this Pennsylvania field ranks among the most courageous acts of American history.”

Bush, who served as commander in chief when the United States went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, said 9/11 proved that conditions in other countries could have an impact in American streets.

“It may be tempting to think it doesn’t matter what happens to a villager in Afghanistan or a child in Africa, but the temptation of isolation is deadly wrong,” Bush said.

He also told stories of unity in the days that followed the September 11 attacks and spoke to the intense political debates that have shaped Washington over much of the past decade.

“But Americans have never been defined by our disagreements,” Bush said. “Whatever challenges we face in the future … we must never allow our differences to harden into divisions.”

After ending his speech, Bush quickly walked back to his chair and sat down, while the audience gave him a standing ovation.

Clinton, vividly emotional, then walked to the podium to begin his speech but struggled to get through his first few sentences.

“Before President Bush came up to speak, I asked him if he was having a hard time, and he said, ‘I was doing fine until I looked at all of you’,” Clinton said, pointing to the audience.

In a speech laced with similar themes of unity and resilience, Clinton credited Bush and President Barack Obama for preventing another attack on American soil in the last decade – a statement that was met with strong applause.

“There has always been a special place in the common memory for people who deliberately, knowingly, certainly lay down their lives for other people to live,” Clinton said, referring to the victims of Flight 93.

Clinton, whose term ended just nine months before the attacks, compared the acts on the plane to the Battle of the Alamo, as well as the Spartan offense against the Persian Empire 2,500 years ago.

Both stories involved a small minority fighting against the odds for a larger cause.

“And 2,500 years from now, I hope and pray to God that people will still remember this,” Clinton said.

The former president closed his speech by announcing that he and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) had agreed to hold a bipartisan event to raise more money for the memorial.

Filed under: 9/11 • Bill Clinton • George W. Bush
soundoff (85 Responses)
  1. diridi

    We do not forget 9/11. We need to restrict immigration to all southeast nations, that is the place all these turmoil from....remember this.....India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Saudi, Iraq, Iran, etc, true, true, and true.....o.k, I had tears when I saw and read Time Magazine.....Hospitals, do not play politics, nor be greedy in hiring all these foreign doctors, for your selfish greed and cheap labor.....Nation is in danger....o.k,

    September 10, 2011 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  2. Little Jimmy Truth

    Bush, Clinton, and Boehner, you have great jobs.

    September 10, 2011 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  3. SecedingfromTexas

    I was going to just keep quiet this weekend, but find it sad that this article did not recognize the equally moving
    speech given by Vice- President Biden. He spoke from his heart, and, quite frankly, touched me more than the

    September 10, 2011 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  4. Dave in East Aurora

    Very dignified and moving ceremony. Two of the best speechs (for lack of a better word, for they were humble and sincere) I have ever heard Bush and Clinton give. Biden's was very appropriate, as well, given the loss of his first wife. This article hardly does the ceremony justice.

    September 10, 2011 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  5. T'sah from Virginia

    This was a warm gathering and I cannot believe they are still $10 million short in completing the Memorial – after 10 years??? Furthermore, why wasn't this mentioned before?

    9/11 will never be forgotten because it touched so many lives. My brother worked in the second tower that was hit but never arrived there that day. He turned around, while at Penn Station, and returned home because he heard there was a "fire" at the WTC. At that time, he did not even know we were under attack. He turned around because he figured it would be a hell getting to downtown Manhattan and it would be a "mad house". So he went home!!!

    We all know someone and even if you don't – someone will "touch" you because they resemble any father, mother, sister, brother, aunt, uncle and/or child you do know!!


    September 10, 2011 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  6. ThinkAgain

    My oldest's first day of preschool was 9/11. I remember the shocked haze my husband and I struggled through, trying to be upbeat and positive for our son as we got him ready to head out the door, while at the same time reeling from the realization that we had been attacked and had seen the towers fall.

    At the school, all the parents looked at each other with numb expressions on our face, again trying to show enthusiasm for all the bright, hopeful, innocent souls we were dropping off for their first day of school their whole lives ahead of them, knowing that the world had lost its own innocence and changed forever.

    September 10, 2011 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  7. once upon a horse

    I look at a lot of the nonsense that goes on in our Congress today, the division and the back and forth negative rhetoric fueled by both the right and the left, media and talk show hosts and I recall how united this country was when we were attacked on 9/11. We should NEVER forget that day not only because of the attack and the lives lost but also how it unified our nation as one against a common enemy. That day we weren't red or blue, black white or brown, left or right we were all AMERICANS. God PLEASE continue to bless our nation.

    September 10, 2011 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  8. Patrick from Minnesota

    Just as I thought Bush would do the right thing and disappear...

    September 10, 2011 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  9. Darlene Buckingham

    May wisdom, knowledge, logic and integrity guide all political leaders on the Planet. PEace to ALL.

    September 10, 2011 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  10. tcaros

    Bush is responsible for over 4404 deahts in Iraq and over 110,000 civilian deahs. He did not find Bin Laden.
    It took Obama to find BIn Laden. Bush just bankrupted our country.. many more deahts due to economic conditions and despair.

    September 10, 2011 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  11. patms

    Flight 93 was a personal attach against President Bush & Clinton White House, it is not to say the heroism of the passengers on Flight 93 outdoes the heroism of NYFD & PD, it to say that I wish I could have been one who charged the front of the plane fully knowing what the outcome of my action. Its in there image we should reshape our countries beliefs; not to care who was in the White House.

    September 10, 2011 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  12. Yvette Robinson

    Really, why does anyone have to speak at the 911 ceremony? Those reflecting pools at the 911 memorial site in N.Y. speak for themselves. Nobody who remembers that day can ever forget what happened...or why..or who initiated it. There is nothing any politician can say that has not been said before...there is no amount of political pandering that has not already been attempted. There is no use of the memory of those who died that has not been shamefully exploited by anyone and everyone who could make a penny off of doing so.

    I would like to hear from the young architect who designed the memorial pools...they are spectacular. Hearing from family members who reflect upon how their lives changed and how they have moved forward is also appropriate. But Bush, Clinton, Cheney, Obama, etc..... need to shut up that day. It is not their day, after all. 911 did not happen so they could make their footnotes in history. Enough with the exploitation.

    September 10, 2011 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  13. Jane

    Forever in our hearts, I don't think anyone will forget that day. and the bravery done for America by true patriots, who never even thought, they just did what was best for each other. as we all were together during those bleak days. Jane

    September 10, 2011 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  14. Barbara

    If such a tragedy brings both sides together-as it should without question-why can't Congress get together for the common good of the People and pass legislation that will put People back to work? Why do they play politics with people's lives? Why all the innuendos and game playing and lies? Take a moment this 10th Anniversay and remember that when we join together is when we are the strongest.

    September 10, 2011 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  15. Rudy NYC

    @T'Sah: God blessed your brother.

    My sister is a survivor of both WTC attacks, 1993 and 2001. She had just passed the garage area a couple of minutes prior to the 1993 explosion. On 9/11 she was one of the "walking wounded" covered in soot, and mentally ravaged. She has a dislike for the intense media coverage and has recurring nightmares around this time of the year as a result. She is not alone in that regard. As we mourn those who died, there those who relive the horrors the experienced whenever they see images of the WTC on that day.

    September 10, 2011 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  16. Veteran

    Bush's first strike against terrorism was hiding in his bunker.

    September 10, 2011 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  17. RS, CA

    President Bush was the right President for that time - I will always be grateful for his courage and commitment to keep us safe after that horrible day. THAT is what our president is supposed to do - look our for AMERICAN safety and security and the AMERICAN way of life that our fathers and forefathers worked so hard to build. Thank you, President Bush!

    September 10, 2011 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  18. Fed Up

    I can't believe Bush has the nerve to show his face at any of these events. He and Condolezza were told terrorists were planning a hit on America with planes, and they blew it off instead of putting this country on alert. If I had lost anyone on 9/11, I would request this man be no where in sight. What do you expect from someone with no conscience, and this man has repeatedily proven, he has no conscience?

    September 10, 2011 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  19. turtleheadz

    Had a certain someone heeded the "6 TIMES" he was told about "EXACTLY" what "OBL" was going to do, then all these deaths would have been avoided.

    September 10, 2011 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  20. tcaros

    Why are we Americans obsessed with memorials? Whenever some trajedy happens we create a memorial. Is it really us or those who try and control the public conciousness?

    4044 soldiers have died in Iraq, 32,000 wounded, 105,000 civilian casualties in Iraq. I wonder how Bush can look upon those people. If he's truly a Christian, he knows they are the same as those who died on 9/11. It took Obama just 2 years to find Bin Laden..

    September 10, 2011 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  21. EnoughAlready

    Sure, it's a horrible thing. But Bush and Cheney cheapened it. Their vulgar abuses neutralized the horror of the whole thing. Since we're too cowardly to investigate it, History will judge harshly.

    September 10, 2011 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  22. Brian Hartman

    I watched both Clinton and Bush's speeches. I thought they were both excellent, in different ways.

    September 10, 2011 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  23. Anand


    You are putting India on this list??? Are you out of your mind? India?? Do you realize the attacks India has had? Just last week there was a bomb attack there. Indians are not violent people. If they were, Pakistan would have been wiped off already.

    You must be a Paki for sure. God help you.

    September 10, 2011 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  24. Ben Dover

    Remember 9-11 always....and don"t forget,....who found him and took that slime out!!!

    September 10, 2011 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  25. Anonymous

    diridi, India is not a terrorist nation. Remember this and find out more by research.

    September 10, 2011 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
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