Former President George W. Bush delivered a moving speech on Saturday as the country solemnly remembers the 20th anniversary of September 11, contrasting the unity he witnessed in the days following the attacks with the division that exists today in the nation.
“Twenty years ago we all discovered – in different ways, in different places, but all at the same time – that our lives would be forever changed. The world was noisy with carnage and sirens, then silent with voices missing that would never be heard again, ”he told the National Flight 93 Memorial near Shanksville, Pa.
“These lives remain precious to our country, and infinitely precious to many of you. Today we remember your loss, we share your grief and we honor the men and women you have so long and so well. loved. “
Bush said that in America’s darkest day, “the actions of an enemy revealed the spirit of a people.”
“We were proud of our wounded nation,” he told the crowd. “In these memories, the passengers and crew of Flight 93 must always have a place of honor. Here, the intended targets have become the instruments of rescue. And many who are now alive owe an immense and unconscious debt. to the challenge displayed in the sky over field. “
The former president then spoke of the difficulties encountered in trying to understand why America was being targeted and said that “the security measures incorporated into our lives are both sources of solace and reminders of our vulnerability.”
“And we have seen growing evidence that dangers to our country can come not only from borders, but also from the violence that gathers within. There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists in the world. ‘foreign and violent extremists at home,’ Bush said, apparently referring to the Sixth Capitol Riot.
“But in their contempt for pluralism, in their contempt for human life, in their determination to defile national symbols, they are like-minded children. And it is our constant duty to confront them.”
Bush, who was reading a book to school children in Florida when planes struck 20 years ago, reflected on how the country came together in the days following the terrorist attacks.
“On the day of America’s trial and mourning, I saw millions of people instinctively grab a neighbor’s hand and rally together. This is the America I know. a time when religious bigotry could have flowed freely, I saw Americans reject prejudice and embrace people of Muslim faith. This is the nation I know, “he said.
“At a time when nativism could have sparked hatred and violence against people perceived as foreigners, I saw Americans reaffirm their welcome of immigrants and refugees. This is the nation that I know. At a time when some saw the rising generation as individualistic and decadent, I saw young people embrace an ethic of service and rise to selfless action. This is the nation that I know.