Roger A. Meece's Speeches and Programs
Chargé Roger A. Meece's Remarks on the Occasion of the Two-Year Commemoration of 9/11
September 11, 2003 | Sheraton Hotel, Abuja
Two years ago today, our world changed. Not just for Americans, but everyone's world. Nigerians joined people throughout the world in shock and grief as the realization set in that terrorists had committed acts of mass murder brutally killing more than 3,000 innocent people from over 90 nations in attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. Many of those who died perished trying to aid those trapped and injured by the attacks. It is fitting and right that we join today in remembrance of the eleven Nigerians who died in the course of that day. We mourn them as we mourn all those who died needlessly on September 11, and extend our thoughts and prayers to their families.
Make no mistake, this was not just an attack against the United States. These actions represented attacks against all freedom-loving peoples of the world, and indeed the basic tenets of civilized behavior. The al Qaeda terrorists who carried out this heinous act attacked people of every continent, every religion, and every race, male and female, man, woman and child - all innocent victims of an inhumane act of hatred. But if those practitioners of hate behind the attacks somehow thought they would bring down the United States or undermine principles of freedom and open dialogue, they utterly failed.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, people and nations of good will throughout the world, certainly including Nigeria, rallied together to launch an unprecedented global war on terror that continues today. We have made impressive progress to identify, arrest, and prosecute terrorists and destroy the financial networks that support them. But of course we know that more remains to be done.
Terrorist attacks over the past year in Indonesia, Morocco, and Iraq have served as a painful reminder of the continuing capacity of terrorists to strike. As with many others, I was appalled, for example as the UN recently lost nearly a score of talented, dedicated staff - including Special Representative Sergio Viera de Mello. Such senseless attacks must reinforce our determination to ensure that others do not become victims of blind violence.
In fact, terrorism and its adherents now face a unified global front that rejects violence and the targeting of innocent civilians. Those who seek to promote such barbarism must not and will not prevail.
It is with difficulty that the world has moved ahead since September 11 - but we have moved ahead, even though our lives have changed. I recently came from Washington, where reconstruction of the damaged portion of the Pentagon was finished last year before the first-year anniversary of the attacks. I think it is worth noting that the work crew who performed this work came from 30 nations. Many had immigrated to the United States to escape political and social prosecution. In Pennsylvania, a local pastor has rebuilt a wood-frame building near the crash site of Flight 93. It now serves as a memorial chapel for the courageous passengers and crew who aborted the terrorists' attempt to use their plane in further attacks, even at the cost of their own lives.
About a month ago, I was in New York, where restoration and reconstruction of many of the buildings surrounding the World Trade Center has taken place. I was struck by the vibrant mood of that city which is so much a gathering point for people from around the world. People have moved back to their homes, businesses continue to re-open, reporters at the Wall Street Journal have returned to their desks. A broad consultation process has produced a new and bold design for the World Trade Center site. In response to the tragedy, schoolchildren in New York created a mural called "A Skyline of Heroes" that hangs today in the Museum of the City of New York.
The decision as to what to do with the site of the collapsed twin towers perhaps merits special mention. An international design competition produced over 400 creative proposals seeking to provide a fitting memorial to the victims, while emphasizing a promising and productive future for New York, and for us all. Earlier this year, world-renowned Berlin-based architect Daniel Libeskind, won the competition. His proposal incorporates a 533-meter tower, a museum and memorial to the victims, and office and commercial business spaces. In presenting his model, Libeskind described it as, "A skyscraper rises above its predecessors, restoring the spiritual peak of the city, creating an icon that speaks to our vitality in the face of danger and our optimism in the aftermath of tragedy -- Life is victorious." I think that is a pretty good summary of the spirit that should guide us all.
The September 11 attacks must not be forgotten, and never will be by those Americans and others around the world who lived through that day.
In recognition of those who died, President Bush has declared September 11, 2003 as Patriot Day in the United States. In his proclamation, the President said, "As we remember September 11, 2001, we reaffirm the vows made in the earliest hours of our grief and anger. As liberty's home and defender, America will not tire, will not falter, and will not fail in fighting for the safety and security of the American people and a world free of terrorism."
I would like to express my appreciation and thanks to all of you here, and indeed all who have joined together in the fight against terrorism. But for all that I and others may say, our feelings and our vision may best be captured in the words of children. I would like to share with you some thoughts of students of various nationalities of the American International School. The words of these Nigerian, American, and other students should make us proud and hopeful today.
"The 9/11 attacks make me think twice - God has never said to kill innocent souls, especially for the sake of your own pleasure in seeing them dead."
"Together we stand as one and together we fight as one."
"And the ultimate goal for us all: One day I hope we live in peace - once and forever."
Honored guests, friends and colleagues, that dream of peace is the fervent hope of all of us. Let us rededicate ourselves to ensuring that day comes, and that our children look to a future of human dignity, tolerance, and a world community guided by peace.
Thank you for your kind attention today and for joining with us to remember those who lost their lives two years ago.