Schumer Floor Remarks Commemorating The 18th Anniversary Of The September 11th Attacks

September 11, 2019

Washington, D.C. – Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor marking the 18th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. Below are his remarks, which can also be found here.

Eighteen years ago today, on a cloudless Tuesday morning, my city, our country, our world changed forever. In the span of a few hours, the Twin Towers fell, the Pentagon was hit, smoke rose from an empty field in Pennsylvania.

More than 3,000 souls were taken from us that day. I knew some of them: a guy I played basketball with in high school; a businessman who helped me on my way up; a firefighter I did blood drives with. It was one of the bloodiest days on American soil since the Civil War.

Each year, we pause to remember that awful day. We mourn those we lost. But we also recognize that in the aftermath of September 11th, the resiliency of the American people—the resiliency of New Yorkers—shown through one of the darkest hours in our country.

Looking back remains difficult even after 18 years. I ride my bike through the city of New York. Every fifth or sixth street is named after a firefighter or a police officer who died, in some parts of Brooklyn, Bay Ridge, places like that. I’ll never forget, I think of it all the time, that day after when President Bush sent Senator Clinton and I to go up to New York in planes. We were the only planes in the sky. An airliner, had us surround by F-18s and F-16s. And we landed and went down to the site. The smell of death and burnt flesh in the air. And this thing that I will never forget: a thousand people lined up, no one knew who had lived and who had died, with little signs, “have you seen my mother, Mary? Have you seen my son, Bill?” That stays with you.

I remember the generosity of New Yorkers. A man who owned a shoe store right north of the towers gave out free shoes to everybody who was fleeing. Many of them had lost their shoes in the long trek down the stairs. I remember the valor of the first responders who rushed to the towers. I remember a firefighter from Staten Island, based in Brooklyn, went to his firehouse, put his full gear on, ran to the tunnel, with about 60 to 70 pounds of gear on. He was on his day off, but he knew he was called. He went up the stairs of the World Trade Center and was crushed when the towers collapsed. So there’s a lot. Another way I think of this every day: I always wear this flag on my lapel. I called on Americans to wear the flag the day after, after having witnessed the site, and I’ve worn this flag every day since. And every time I look at it I think of those who were lost and I think of the valor of New Yorkers and the American people.

For the first responders, this 9/11 carries additional significance. A few months ago, some of the heroes that day were here in Washington to celebrate the permanent reauthorization of the Victim Compensation Fund. I want to thank the first responders who came to Washington and helped secure this funding, especially those who are no longer with us: James Zadroga, Luis Alvarez, my dear friend Ray Pfiefer. Wherever they are, I hope they’re looking down with the knowledge that their brothers and sisters are being taken care of. God bless those good heroes. May God continue to bless this resilient nation.