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  6. Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen Remarks at TSA September 11th Commemoration

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Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen Remarks at TSA September 11th Commemoration: As Prepared for Delivery

Release Date: September 11, 2018

Good morning everyone.

It is my distinct honor to join you today as we mark the anniversary of the tragic attacks of September 11th, 2001. Thank you to TSA for hosting us here today.

In particular, I want to take a quick moment to thank Administrator Pekoske for his leadership.  During his tenure, and in response to threat intelligence, TSA has put in place the most significant upgrades to aviation security in a decade.

Today, every airport in the world with flights to the United States is implementing new “seen and unseen” measures to detect concealed explosives, guard against chemical weapons, identify insider threats, and identify suspicious passengers.  International flights are now more secure than they have ever been.

Thank you to Administrator Pekoske, Deputy Administrator Cogswell, and the entire TSA team for your outstanding work to make America safer. 

It is also my pleasure to recognize a few notable individuals in attendance this morning – former TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger, former DHS Assistant Secretary Stewart Baker, and former DHS Chief of Staff Chad Sweet. I also wanted to recognize Kathy Kraninger from OMB, and also a former DHS plank holder.

We also have a number of current DHS officials in attendance – including Acting Deputy Secretary Claire Grady, General Counsel John Mitnick, Under Secretary of NPPD Chris Krebs, Acting Under Secretary for S&T Bill Bryan, CBP Commissioner McAleenan, Director of USCIS Francis Cissna, Deputy Under Secretary for Policy James McCament, Assistant Secretary for CWMD James McDonnell, Assistant Secretary for Partnership and Engagement John Hill, Deputy Administrator of FEMA Dan Kaniewski, and a trio of officials from ICE – including Acting Director Ron Vitiello, Acting Deputy Director Matt Albence and Chief of Staff Tom Blank.  Many of you may remember Tom, who is an original TSA plank holder and former Acting Deputy Administrator.  Thank you for being here and for all you do to protect the homeland.

I also see a lot of familiar faces of industry in the crowd this morning.  Homeland security is a team sport and your contribution is critical to our success.  Thank you for being here. 

Today the DHS family welcomes in particular former Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta.  It was under his steady leadership that we responded to the events of 9/11, and it was because of his effective management that TSA was able to stand up in record time. You continue to inspire us all.

Most forget that before there was a Department of Homeland Security, there was TSA – created 16 months before the Department.  Thanks to Secretary Mineta, TSA accomplished many incredible feats, including among them—hiring, training, and deploying over 45,000 officers and other critical personnel and deploying baggage screening technology to over 450 airports.

Today, our aviation security system is seen as the gold-standard around the world. It is often my pleasure to explain our system to our fellow allies.

In those first few years following the attacks, you could ask anyone where they were, and what they were doing on September 11th, and they could tell you in detail.  For many of us, that’s still the case.

Like so many of you, I will never forget that day- frantically trying to reach loved ones in NY, the horrific photos, the heartbreaking signs of those looking for their loved ones, the sense that our lives and our world had forever been changed by the brutal acts of enemies “over there” who were suddenly very much “over here.”

But now—seventeen years later— there is an entire generation who did not live through this tragedy.

That is one of the reasons why this anniversary is so important:  Every year, we must pause to reflect on the events of 9/11, so the next generation and those still to come will never forget the attacks against our country, and the commitment we made to protect it.

And we must remain ever on guard. As I have said, power vacuums are springing up across the globe and are quickly being filled by hostile nation-states, terrorists, and transnational criminals. They all share a common goal:  they want to disrupt our way of life. They seek to incite chaos, instability, and violence.

But, today, I choose to focus—not on the actions of our enemies—but on the courage and resilience of the American people.  Because through all the darkness, we saw resolute rays of light.

That morning we saw first responders running towards burning buildings and then in the days that followed, they came from across the country to help with search and rescue operations.  Individuals donated their time and money to survivors and families of the victims.  And citizens waited in lines around the block to give blood.

In our darkest hour, we saw real heroism...and we saw hope.

Our rallying cry was marked not by anger but by unified determination:  “United We Stand” was written in sidewalk chalk, on bumper stickers, and in the hearts of all Americans who pledged not to be intimidated by evil.

Born from that commitment and that relentless resilience was the Department of Homeland Security.

In fact, it was the events of that day that inspired me to leave my job as a practicing attorney in Texas, and return to Washington to serve my country.  It was a calling—a need to serve.

So in 2002, I joined many of you here and took a job at TSA.  In the days, months, and years after 9/11, the hours were long and the scrutiny was intense, but the sense of service was strong.

We are now many years from a pivotal moment that gave us a permanent mission.  But we will not let time nor space dull our memories or weaken our resolve.

Today, we honor those we lost, thank those who serve, and remind each other what we fight to protect.

No terrorist movement—no force of evil—can erase what our nation stands for or undermine our way of life.

The cause of liberty is not just written into our founding documents; it is cast like a beacon- a sunbeam across the pages of history, serving as a guiding light to all who seek human dignity and freedom.

You all play a vital role in promoting that cause through your service and your example. 

It is incredible to look back now and recognize all we have accomplished together since that day on 9/11.

It is because of the vigilance and dedication of TSA employees that our skies are safer.

It is because of the courage and commitment of the more than 240,000 DHS employees across the country that America is more secure.

I am forever proud of the brave men and women of DHS who go to work every day to fulfill the promise we made after 9/11.  As DHS Secretary, I will continue to do all I can to support your unwavering efforts. And as an American, I thank you -- you and your families - who serve as you serve- have my deepest respect and gratitude.

Today, we recommit ourselves to our mission:  With honor and integrity, we will safeguard the American people, our homeland, and our values.

God bless you and God bless the United States of America.

Live streaming by TSA / YouTube

Last Updated: 11/03/2023
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