WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Whip Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today commemorated the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that took place on September 11, 2001. Thune also discussed the severe weather that caused significant structural damage throughout Sioux Falls, South Dakota, last night.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, before I begin, I need to mention the tornado that tore through my hometown of Sioux Falls last night.
“Thankfully there appear to have been no fatalities, but there was a lot of structural damage.
“I’m grateful to all the emergency responders, electric crews, and all those who worked through the night to keep residents safe.
“My thoughts are with Sioux Falls today and all those who are dealing with the tornado’s aftermath.
“I had the opportunity this morning to speak with Mayor Paul TenHaken of Sioux Falls, who was, as you can expect, up throughout the night with his team and just expressed our support to him, to his team, to our community, as they begin the process of clean-up and recovery from what was a very, very damaging storm.
“I also talked with my wife and older daughter, who lives in Sioux Falls, both of whom were in their basements last night, as most, I think, residents were. But glad to hear that people took the necessary steps to keep themselves and their families safe. And, as I reported, so far, knock on wood, we’re not aware of any injuries associated with that.
“But I will continue to monitor the situation, and my staff and I are available to help with whatever is needed, as a result of this storm.
"Mr. President, it’s difficult to believe that it’s been 18 years since the September 11 attacks.
“That bright September morning is seared in our minds as if it were yesterday.
“The shock. The horror. The sense of unreality.
“And in the days that followed, the grief and loss.
“But also the resolve. And the unity of purpose.
"And as always where there is great evil, good rose up in response.
"The courageous passengers on Flight 93, who laid down their lives to protect their fellow Americans.
“Vietnam veteran and Morgan Stanley security chief Rick Rescorla who successfully evacuated more than 2,000 of his firm’s employees from the World Trade Center and died returning to help evacuate others.
“Jason Thomas and Dave Karnes, two former Marines who dropped everything and sped to the towers, saving the lives of the two Port Authority officers they found trapped in the rubble.
“National Guard pilots Heather Penney and Marc Sasseville, who scrambled their F-16s weaponless to meet the threat heading toward D.C., prepared to sacrifice their lives by ramming their aircraft into Flight 93 before it could hit the Capitol or the White House.
“The hundreds of first responders who ran toward the Towers, toward the inferno, and headed up the steps while civilians ran down.
“And then there were the countless ordinary Americans far away from New York and Washington, who flooded blood banks and overwhelmed organizations like the Red Cross with their donations.
“Who stormed heaven with prayers for the missing and the injured and the suffering.
“Who proudly flew their flags and reached out to their neighbors.
“And in the weeks and months and years to come, there was the 9/11 generation of soldiers – those who signed up in the wake of September 11 to fight back against the terrorists, and those who were already serving.
“They deployed around the globe to fight terror and defend freedom.
“And thousands of them laid down their lives.
“18 years on, we remember the horror of that September day.
“But we are also lifted up by the memory of the heroes who came out of it.
“For those of us who serve in Congress, the anniversary of September 11 is also a reminder of our obligation to provide for our nation’s defense and ensure we are prepared to meet and defeat any threat.
“I’m proud that here in the Senate members of both parties have worked together over the past couple of years to rebuild our nation’s military after years of underfunding and the strains of the war on terror.
“September 11 is also a reminder of our obligation to care for those who stand between us and danger – our soldiers, our veterans, our first responders, our law enforcement officers.
“They take on a heavy burden so that the rest of us can live in peace and safety.
“We owe them a debt we can never repay.
“This year Congress overwhelmingly passed legislation making the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund permanent, to ensure that first responders whose health has suffered in the wake of their work at Ground Zero, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania, will have the resources they need.
“Mr. President, while we’re on the subject of veterans, like all my colleagues I am saddened that Senator Johnny Isakson is retiring at the end of this year.
“We were members of the same Senate freshman class in 2004.
“He’s been a tireless advocate for veterans during his time here, and he will be deeply missed.
“But his hard work as the head of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee here in the Senate will continue to bear fruit.
“And we will continue to work to implement the VA reforms he shepherded to ensure our veterans receive the care they have earned.
“Mr. President, I was here in D.C. on September 11, and evacuated the Capitol complex.
“And one of the things I remember very clearly from that day is the Capitol Police officers who directed us out of the buildings.
“We were running from danger – they weren’t.
“They weren’t going anywhere until they were sure every last man and woman had made their way out.
“Against that spirit of courage and self-sacrifice, evil will never ultimately triumph.
“May God bless all those who stand between us and danger.
“May He bless the victims of September 11 and their families.
“And may He continue to bless the United States of America.”