Here we are again in this beautiful Central Park to take the time to reflect and remember and to do so with those who really understood what it meant not to give in, not to give up, but to reach deep and go on stronger and better.
Ten years sounds like such a long time. And yet for many of you and other family members, it must seem like the contradiction of all time – somehow just yesterday and somehow eternity.
There were many wonderful, brave, extraordinary stories that we all learned about in the days and weeks and months following 9/11. But the story of Cantor Fitzgerald stands out. I was just reminded of finding the number for a cell phone in those hours after the attack to just try to reach out to let Howard and all of you know that whatever lay ahead, you would not be alone.
I remember that first memorial here in the park, when words could not broach the fullness of all the hearts gathered here. I was privileged to see this event over time change as people found once again joy, laughter, purpose, and meaning. It is a journey that I have been honored to witness.
Today, we know that without the advocacy of Cantor Fitzgerald and without the example of Cantor Fitzgerald, we would have a very different feeling about the last 10 years. It wasn’t only that within 47 hours you were back to conducting business, though it was anything but business as usual. It wasn’t only that you rebuilt, you rehired, you refused to be intimidated out of New York. I can remember those discussions. It wasn’t just that you literally and figuratively rolled up your sleeves, and you turned the continuation of work into an affirmation of life – as much for those who were lost as for those who remained. But it was also that you emboldened the American spirit, you tapped into a strength and love that is utterly foreign to those who spread fear and hate in the world.
Ten years later, we continue to reaffirm that spirit and strength. A moment ago, we heard Edie talk about the Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund, and of course, the support it has given to all of you. But what she didn’t say and many of you know is that the relief fund has broadened its reach to help other families in crisis – first the victims of Hurricane Katrina, and more recently earthquake victims in Haiti and Japan – sending ripples of that American strength, spirit, and goodwill to people thousands of miles away.
It’s also true that the memorial which I had the honor of visiting this morning for about an hour and a half is what it should be, thanks to your advocacy. It is all that Edie said. It is above ground. The names are there in groupings and placements that make sense. And as I talked to hundreds of people this morning who were seeing it for the first time, I kept hearing over and over again what it meant to them – the comfort it gave them to be able to see the name of their loved one there, to find it, to touch it.
I talked to one elderly woman who had lost her son, who brought a lawn chair. She was sitting in that lawn chair in front of the place where her son’s name appeared, because she said now she can visit him.
What you did to help make that memorial a place of healing will mean so much for so many forever.
The stories that came out of 9/11 continue to be told, but your story – the story of Cantor Fitzgerald, the story of Howard’s extraordinary decision about the commitment that he made to the families – resonates far beyond the Cantor Fitzgerald family. A lot of people may never have even come to New York, they may not even understand what you do, but they know that you created something very special out of death and destruction.
Tomorrow, when Cantor Fitzgerald goes to work on Charity Day, you will honor the memory of those who were lost with service to others, and send again those ripples of compassion and concern far beyond your community. We are reclaiming September 11th as a National Day of Service and Remembrance, as a touchstone of our human capacity for good, and as representatives of the core of what makes us Americans. Rebirth and renewal, those are part of the American story, and we will tell that story for generations in this city and far beyond.
But there’s also something more, and that is what this last 10 years has meant to our country. It’s been a tough 10 years. It’s been 10 years of looking inside and out, trying to make sense of this new world we are a part of, looking to understand where we can, prevent and protect where we must.
So at the same time, we continue our hunt to bring those who planned and executed this attack to justice. And I was very proud as a former senator from New York and as a current Secretary of State to be part of the administration that brought bin Ladin to justice. (Applause.)
But equally important is the story we tell every day about who we are, who America is, what we stand for. And that story is all the richer and more powerful because of the response of Cantor Fitzgerald to the unimaginable, to the unspeakable.
When the history of these times are written, when there is enough distance perhaps to really understand what that day meant, not just in personal terms, not just for this city and country, but across the span of an era, there will certainly be much written, as has already begun, about why and who and what. But what will stand the test of time is how we responded, how we stood up, the resilience we showed, the compassion and, yes, the love that was part of America’s heart.
For all of that, I am deeply grateful to you, and I look forward to continuing to hear the stories that will come from Cantor Fitzgerald’s family and the next generation for years to come. God bless you all. (Applause.)