Bush, Clinton speak at memorial for Flight 93
September 10th, 2011
03:56 PM ET
3 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. How honorable

    At times like this, I remember why America is so great and some of their leaders the same.

    September 10, 2011 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  2. NReptilian

    Look at those guilty faces!

    September 10, 2011 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    The Saddenning truth of the matter is that the very people those of Flight 93 those individuals sought to protect and defend, are part of the biggest group of money mongrels that can't seem to put 25 million dollars together out of their own pockets to say Thank you for sacrificing your lives so we sit and enjoy our antics in the Walls of Congress. Always a selfish group long before...................

    September 10, 2011 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  4. marty

    Why is it that former presidents seem to get along just fine and, as in the case of the Shanksville memorial service today, we all shared a sense of pride when we saw them together. Why in heaven's name can't our elected officials demonstrate the same civil togetherness instead of resorting to the ugliness in speech and action that should have no place in a civilized nation? 9/11 brought out the best of humanity, our Congress brings out the worst of bullying.

    September 10, 2011 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  5. Jimbo

    Boy, do I miss Clinton. We really had no idea how good we had it then.

    September 10, 2011 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  6. Sean

    I lost my first cousin who was a great guy and father on 9/11! As an 'old' combat veteran, I wanted to go voluntarily this time but we got sidetracked with WMD's and capturing the wrong man. When I use the word we, I don't mean you and me. The powers (W and C) that be, decided to play games with our constitution and we were in another war for no reason. Just like before, when I served. But, our current POTUS, finally got it right and killed the right guy. The previous administration even had prior knowledge that an attack using planes were eminent. Now we take off our shoes and get put thru a peep show or get groped. Besides the fact our defense and homeland security budget is over a trillion dollars. That's why we are broke, and can't afford healthcare for all. Everything that we took for granted like our freedom from being eaves·dropped, has gone the way of the Do Do bird!

    September 10, 2011 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  7. Bobbi Jo Monnot-Baxter

    I been watching all the specials, commemarating 9/11.
    I enjoyed both Clinton, and Busch' speeches today.
    I, too, get teary eyed every year. Most AMERICANS DO!
    AS A HUMAN BEING SHOULD.

    September 10, 2011 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    Here we had Clinton who allowed 9/11 to happen, Bush who had to deal with it and Biden who was hoping to get a round of golf in before dark.

    September 10, 2011 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  9. cropgirl

    I live just outside Toronto, Ontario. I will never forget where I was that day nor the emotions that followed. Everytime I look up and see a brilliant, cloud-free blue sky I immediately think about 9/11. The sarcrifices that were made to save lives and the courage to carry on will be with me forever.

    September 10, 2011 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  10. Russ139

    These two Presidents are part of the 9/11 tradgedy. Clinton, who was distracted in the last 15 months of his term by the Lewinsky caused impeachment proceedings, thus perhaps losing focus on the growing Al Quaeda threat. And Bush, for focusing on missles from rogue nations (the "Star Wars" strategy), while publicly dismissing the nation's risk from less "high-tech" attacks (like what actually happened.)

    September 10, 2011 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  11. Jimbo

    I get a huge kick out of this: I made an innocuous comment 48 minutes ago, and... it's still "awaiting moderation." What kind of brain trust do you have peering at these things? Comments on "news" stories are complete BS in the long run anyway. Most of us know it's just a weird hobby at the best.

    September 10, 2011 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  12. Riley

    Bush is such a CLASS ACT! We miss you, W.

    September 10, 2011 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  13. Jeff Cox

    While I applaud the idea of commemorating what these brave individuals did, I am saddened that the country for which they lost their lives is the same country responsible for stealing the land on which this memorial was built. One quarter of the property was seized through condemnation, against the desires of the people who owned it. That's a travesty that's been washed under the rug in our collective desire to heal as a nation.

    If the government can seize land against these property owners, it can seize YOUR land. Plain and simple, this was wrong.

    September 10, 2011 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  14. DP

    Completely agree SecedingfromTexas. I am glad to see everyone forget about party ties and talk from the heart. Now if we can only get Congress to do the same. When 9/11 happened, we embraced each other as Americans. There was no rich or poor, skin color, democrat or republican. We embraced each other and stood ready to fight. I hope we all can take something away from the memorials this weekend and go back to being a United country.

    September 10, 2011 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
  15. patcee

    No one knows what happened after phone contact ended on Flight 93. The brave passengers could have been killed as they left their seats. Physical evidence at the scene and stories from eyewitnesses point to a missile shot by an American military jet. Bush had given that order as soon as he lifted off in his plane. The eyewitnesses who live in that area have said the authorities showed no interest in hearing their stories. We'll never know what happened, but I guess if it makes everyone feel better about it, believe.

    September 10, 2011 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm |
  16. Tom from Louisville

    I lost two friends in the towers. One of them taught me something about life.

    My father was promoted to President of ABC FM Radio in the North Tower in 1976. It was the defining moment of my respect for my father.

    I place no blame on President Clinton for trying to kill bin Laden in the 90s or Bush for the failure in intelligence communication that could have prevented the day I remember clear as a bell. No. It was a tragic day created by people with very tragic lives. Misery loves company and these dudes had a lot of it.

    God bless you New York. The same to you in D.C. and the families of flight 93.

    September 10, 2011 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  17. Tony R. Boies

    I want to thank those brave men and women on Flight 93....I was working just outside the DC city limits, not far from the Pentagon that morning. We had no idea what was going to happen after the planes hit the WTC and the Pentagon, but we did know planes would get shot down by the Air Force if they got close to the White House or the Capitol and there was no way of knowing where the wreckage would hit. Feel lucky to be alive after that day.

    September 10, 2011 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  18. howard l parker

    What so tragic is innocent people died! Plus our way of life here in the usa will never be the same!

    September 10, 2011 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  19. BBoy705

    I agree 100% with SecedingfromTexas, why on Earth is Vice President Biden's speech not mentioned?? He is the Vice President representing the President and he gave a wonderfully touching speech that really moved me. It is disgraceful that not even his presence is mentioned! CNN what happened here? Right the wrong!

    September 10, 2011 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  20. Spock500

    I, too, am aghast that we are $10 million short for this memorial. What a travesty! Tonight, if 100,000 self-less and altruistic Americans could donate $100 each for this memorial, the problem would be solved. So, where can I send in my check?

    September 10, 2011 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  21. GREG

    @bill Clinton, how dare you, how dare you.

    September 11, 2011 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  22. Amit

    Diridi, restrict immigration to Indians and 9/11+terrorism connection? You really should read and travel more.

    September 11, 2011 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  23. big Al

    I'm sorry but Joe Biden is the total opportunist as well as the best BSer the Democrats have so give me a break. I see his true colors during the debate before the presidental election. He make a great Hollywood actor!

    September 11, 2011 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  24. Terry Brookman

    Bush says to Clinton, I brought the towers down and you almost did so neener neener neener. So Bill says, but I got more tail so neener neener neener.

    September 11, 2011 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  25. BobbiJo

    I was very impressed by Vice President Joe Bidens tribute, to the heroes on Flight 93....He truly spoke from his heart....To the family and friends, of those lost on Flt 93, we Americans, owe a deep gratitude to your loved ones. A debt we can never repay, but one we will never forget. They were a true inspiration to a nation in mourning, by their sacrifice....Their heroic effort, has cause many to step outside their comfort zone and strive for a better life, in a better world....May they continue their peaceful rest and may the prayers of a grateful Nation, bring you comfort.....

    September 11, 2011 12:58 am at 12:58 am |
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