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Schumer Remarks on the Remembrance of September 11th, Hurricane Recovery Aid, and the Consideration of the NDAA

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today delivered remarks on the Senate floor regarding the remembrance of September 11th, Hurricane recovery aid for the areas affected by Irma, and the upcoming consideration of the NDAA. Below are his remarks:

Mr. President, sixteen years ago today, my city, and our country, changed forever.

On September 11, 2001, our country was attacked; the World Trade Center towers fell; the Pentagon was in flames; and the smoke rising from an empty field in Pennsylvania reminded us that, as cataclysmic as the attack was, the conspirators had planned even greater destruction.

It was a day of fear and helplessness, of phones ringing endlessly—when they worked—husbands calling wives, wives calling their husbands, folks in search of brothers and sisters, neighbors and colleagues. I’ll never forget the next day, Mr. President.  President Bush provided planes, so that Senator Clinton and I could fly back to New York.  The smell of death was in the air.  Lined up outside -- before you entered the ground where the Twin Towers were -- were hundreds of people holding signs, little signs with pictures. ‘Have you seen my father, Jim?’ ‘Have you seen my daughter, Mary?’ That stays with me forever.

More than 3,000 souls were taken from us: a guy I played basketball with in high school, a businessman who helped me on my way up, a firefighter who I did blood drives with. It was one of the bloodiest days on American soil since the Civil War. So on September 12th, 2001, I called on Americans to wear the flag, as a sign of solidarity. I’ve worn this flag every day since, in remembrance of those who were lost, and those brave souls who rushed to the towers to find those who might still be alive. God willing, I will wear it every day of my life, for the rest of my life.

September 11th was one of those before-and-after moments. Nothing was the same since. We were awakened to a new manner of evil that had previously been beyond our imagination.

But on this day, as we solemnly remember those who were taken from us, let us also remember what that day revealed about us.

“On a normal day, we value heroism because it is uncommon,” wrote Nancy Gibbs of Time Magazine three days after the attack, “On September 11th, we valued heroism because it was everywhere.”

Firefighters and police and union workers searched, undaunted, through dust and smoke, through fire and ash, for citizens who might still be alive trapped in the rubble. Average Americans pulled the wounded to safety. Folks from coast to coast lined up for blood drives and pooled their money for donations. I’ll never forget the picture of the man who owned a shoe store two blocks north of the towers, who was just giving out shoes to everybody, because they didn’t have theirs. They had rushed to get out of the towers. Just a small act of charity and selflessness, repeated over and over again. Because those kinds of acts are deep in the American soul.

Mr. President, this morning I came from the 9/11 memorial in New York City. Where once there were mighty towers now there are two deep scars in the Earth. But all around the memorial, New York City is alive and thriving. In the days after, they wrote it off. They said no one will live south of Canal or Chambers Street, companies will flee and New York’s greatest days are over. But we New Yorkers are a tough breed.  We rebuilt. We came back stronger.

On this day, we should always remember that, beside our distinctive spirit of independence, resilience and uncommon heroism are also essential parts of the American character.

And I do have to say how proud I am of my city. Downtown is bustling. 50,000 people live there who didn’t live there before. Businesses have relocated; it’s a new ‘in’ area. Bin Laden is gone. The evil men with him are gone. We thrive. God bless America.

On Irma: As Hurricane Irma continues to buffet Florida, our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Florida and the rest of the Southeast that is in the storm’s path.

I – and the Democratic caucus -- stand ready to work with the Majority Leader and his caucus, members of the Administration and officials in Florida to provide them the resources and aid they need.

Just as we were able to speedily pass an aid package after Harvey, I expect we will quickly come together to support the rescue and recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Irma and in some of the other disasters, particularly the fires out West.

Finally, Mr. President, this week we will begin consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act, as we do each year.

As usual, there are hundreds of amendments already filed, and a whole lot of tough issues to consider. We Democrats want to work in a constructive and productive manner to process as many amendments as possible and work though even the most difficult of issues.

I know that Chairman McCain and Ranking Member Reed have an excellent working relationship, as well as a great deal of respect for one another; I hope they can build a strong managers package that will be acceptable to both sides.