Today I will stand on the National September 11 Memorial with a group of men and women representing our armed forces. A number of them bear the distinction of having served as U.S. Navy SEALs. They are on the first part of a walking relay to Dallas, Texas, from West Point, and they made the important choice to visit the 9/11 Memorial at the World Trade Center, pausing to reflect on this sacred ground. As I prepare to meet this group today, I am thinking about the tremendous debt of gratitude we owe to all our armed forces, and how deeply their sacrifices are tied to the history of what happened here on 9/11. It was one year ago that we learned Osama bin Laden had been killed in an historic Navy SEALs operation.
In New York City, the news came as the 9/11 Memorial was just a few months from opening on the 10th anniversary of September 11, 2001. Since that opening, nearly two and a half million people from all 50 states and more than 150 nations around the world have visited to pay tribute to the innocent victims of the most devastating foreign attack perpetrated on American soil.
One of the first steps we took after learning of bin Laden’s death was to meet with our exhibition designers about how we would include this chapter of history in our Museum. This moment was a true reminder of how the history of 9/11 is still unfolding, and an example of why the institution we’re creating must be able to evolve and change over time. Bin Laden’s death and the pending trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, exemplify how that day continues to shape the world in which we live.
One of the important focal points of the 9/11 Memorial Museum, however, will be the positive legacy of that terrible day—the discovery that, when circumstances require, the country and the world will come together with compassion and strength. We saw that in the aftermath of the attacks in a way no one could have anticipated.
Let’s reflect on how the world has changed since 9/11. Most importantly, let us remember those men, women and children who were taken from us too soon, and whose sacrifice we promised we would never forget.
Equally as important, let us also honor the brave men and women who serve in the U.S. military, protecting us at home and abroad. Memorial Day will soon be another opportunity for us to thank those who selflessly defend the freedoms upon which our nation is built; many of them joined the military as their response to the 9/11 attacks. God bless and protect them and their families.
By Joe Daniels, President and CEO of the 9/11 Memorial