Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor on the anniversary of September 11th, 2001. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
There is one day of the year that, for me, will always embody what is most admirable and most enduring about the American spirit. And that day is today.
Twenty-two years after the towers fell in New York, after a plane crashed into the Pentagon, after United 93 came down in Pennsylvania, we pay our respects to those we lost on September 11th. We mourn their loss, every last soul taken from us too early.
And we honor and thank every single American who became an unassuming hero in the aftermath of the attack: the first responders, the legions of volunteers and blood donors, the nameless many who did their part.
I’ll never forget so many scenes: one of them was a guy who owned a shoe store a few blocks north of the World Trade Center, who was just handing out shoes to everybody because many people had lost their shoes as they tried to escape from the towers. But so many different things.
Everywhere I go, I always wear this pin on my lapel as a reminder of our sacred promise to never forget. I called on Americans the day after to wear and display the flag. Just about everybody did, as a sign of unity, of us coming together under an awful day. And I wear it every day and every time I look at this flag, I think about the so many who were lost.
I was at Ground Zero this morning and when you just hear the names that were read of every different background, they have people come up who have lost loved ones, every different background, every different philosophy, race, creed, color, religion, origin, talking about the people they lost.
And I’ll remember, when I went down the day after, when President Bush sent a plane for then-Senator Clinton and I to come up, a thousand people holding up little signs: “have you seen my brother Bill? Have you seen my daughter Mary?” Because when people were missing that first day, people had hoped and prayed that maybe they were still alive. But, of course, very few were.
So, a lifetime can pass, but to me, it always feels like yesterday. I look out my window, I see the Freedom Tower, a symbol of resilience in New York. You can see it from my window in Brooklyn. But I also think of the Twin Towers that were there and so many who were lost. I remember that day: the smell of the pile, human flesh, the noise from the chaos of the aftermath, the images of destruction that New Yorkers and Americans had never seen.
I remember three friends of mine who perished: a guy I played basketball with in high school, a businessman who helped me on my way up, a firefighter I went around New York City and did blood drives with. They’re gone, twenty-two years ago.
But most of all, that day stays with me because on that day, and in the days that followed, I saw countless ordinary Americans do extraordinary things. Taxi drivers and store managers and businessmen and city workers – and so many others – dropped what they were doing and became heroes. Gave blood. Organized prayer vigils. Helped neighbors track down family members. Visited with loved ones and friends who had lost loved ones.
I saw firefighters and policemen and union workers and rescue workers cast aside any concern for their own safety as they worked the pile. Many of them – far too many – became sick and even died because of their illnesses.
Our obligation to care for these first responders continues to this day. It’s why I worked hard along with Senator Gillibrand to add $450 million for the World Trade Center Health Program to the NDAA.
It’s why I fought and successfully added another $1 billion for that program in last year’s omnibus, as well as The Fairness for 9/11 Families Act.
And it’s why last summer Congress enacted the largest expansion of veterans health benefits in the PACT Act. Because we learned what these carcinogens could do to people, whether it was over in Iraq or down on the pile in lower New York.
Because the phrase “Never Forget” is not just about remembering what happened two decades ago, it’s all about taking action today to honor and care for all those who made ultimate sacrifices in the defense of our beautiful nation.
So, may God bless the memories of all those who perished on 9/11. May God bless our first responders, our service members, their families. And may God bless our great democracy and may we keep it.