George W. Bush’s 9/11 Commemoration Speech


Patrick Sweeney, Chief Editor of the Herald

September 11, 2021 was a very somber day for Americans. This day marked the twentieth anniversary since the terrorist attacks in 2001. Terrorists, led by extremist Osama Bin Laden, hijacked four American flights, many of which were bound for cross-country destinations. Two of the planes crashed into the Twin Towers in New York and one crashed into the Pentagon. However, it was the actions of forty passengers and crew members on board United Airlines Flight 93 that changed the course of history. This plane, which was most likely headed to the Capitol, in Washington, was taken over by passengers who foiled the plans of the terrorists. The plane ended up crashing into a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, killing all passengers on board. The 43rd President of the United States, George W. Bush, was President during the September 11th attacks. He made a rare public appearance on the 20th anniversary of the attacks and gave a speech. Bush began by detailing the events of the day for Americans not born or too young to remember the turmoil. He then went on to state the bravery of the passengers and crew members on board the plane. Bush ended with powerful language, using repetition to make his point heard. Bush’s speech was both resonating and personal and was a wonderful way to honor the lives lost on Flight 93.

George Bush began his speech from the perspective of someone who has lived through a tragic event. His actions on that day as well as his clear memory of the events that transpired allow him to teach younger Americans about the attacks on September 11th. It is extremely important for people like George Bush to teach people about 9/11. This is so because people need to learn about history for it not to repeat itself. If the youngest generation of Americans are taught about the tragedy of 9/11, the actions are less likely to be repeated because we have educated them about the difference between right and wrong. In his speech, Bush stated, “For those too young to recall that clear September day, it is hard to describe the mix of feelings we experienced.” He then went on to state the many emotions filling the heads of Americans affected by the events, such as those working in the World Trade Center, first responders who rushed to the scene, and even Americans who were glued to their television and horror struck at the events that were unfolding. Bush described two specific emotions that were present on September 11, 2001, and the days and weeks after. He described “horror at the scale of destruction” and “awe at the bravery and kindness that rose to meet it.” In his speech, Bush also mentioned that there was “shock” and “gratitude” for those who rose to the occasion and put the needs of others first. George Bush did an excellent job beginning his speech with these words. He was the teacher informing Americans who were not born or too young to remember the tragic events that took place on September 11th. This set the stage for the remainder of the speech. Bush grabbed the attention of his audience by appealing not only to the youngest Americans but also to those who remember the tragic events of the day, using it as an intersection into the rest of his writing. 

Bush continued his speech by being extremely outspoken about the bravery of the passengers and crew members on Flight 93 as well as general Americans who united and stepped forward at a time of crisis. Bush included a call to action in his writing, that is as relevant now as it was twenty years ago. He stated that violent extremists, or terrorists, “have disdain for pluralism and disregard for human life,” concluding by saying, “It is our duty to confront them.” This point brings home the idea that even though twenty years have passed since the attacks on September 11th, Americans must not let their guard down. This message comes at a pivotal moment in American history. President Biden ordered the removal of all United States troops from Afghanistan, where they have been since 2001 when Bush ordered that troops be sent in to confront Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda. Just under 3,000 Americans died in combat over the past twenty years, including more than 10 when an Isis suicide bomber confronted American troops and Afghans in August. Bush continued his speech by complimenting individuals who took time out of their days to assist in the relief efforts after September 11, 2001 as well as those who chose to join the military. He stated, “After 9/11, millions of brave Americans stepped forward and volunteered to serve in the Armed Forces.” He then went on to say, “We owe an assurance to all who have fought our nation’s most recent battles. Let me speak directly to veterans and people in uniform: The cause you pursued at the call of duty is the noblest America has to offer.” Bush ended this particular section by saying that he was “proud to lead an amazing, resilient, united people.” This next portion of Bush’s speech spoke directly to the emotions of Americans who lost loved ones on Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. 

When George Bush wrote his 9/11 commemoration speech, he decided to draw a modern connection to the events that transpired. Bush used repetition to his advantage in his writing. Towards the end of his speech, Bush used “This is the nation [America] I know” four times. When speaking, this phrase was very significant. Bush successfully contrasted present-day politics to politics in 2001, saying that they “have become a naked appeal to anger, fear and resentment.” These large divides did not exist in 2001. Bush described the efforts of Americans who united after the terrorist attacks. He stated, “On America’s day of trial and grief, I saw millions of people instinctively grab for a neighbor’s hand and rally to the cause of one another. That is the America I know.” This last portion of Bush’s speech represents a call to action. Bush encourages Americans to unite now as they did after the 9/11 attacks. In a way, America is battling an enemy now just like it was during the terrorist attacks. People are dying and communities are being torn apart because of the coronavirus. However, the “enemy” is very different now than it was twenty years ago. The enemy now lies within because of our failure to unite as a country during a time of need. Instead of trying to find common ground, political leaders express hatred toward one another because of their political party. A group of rioters who had a specific political connection stormed our nation’s Capitol because they were not satisfied with the results of a just, fair election. Will the country unite as one? Will leaders join together and make decisions for the good of the people? We will most likely never know. However, we do know that George Bush gave his best effort to try and unite the country twenty years after September 11th when the country was in a similar situation.

George Bush surprised allies, followers and foes alike when he stated that he would give a speech in Shanksville, Pennsylvania to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of 9/11. Bush carefully crafted his speech and delivered a powerful address that spoke directly to Americans as well as families who lost loved ones on board Flight 93. Bush detailed the events of September 11th to teach a younger generation about the horrors of the day. He also made sure to honor the sacrifice of essential workers who immediately ran to the scene and also led relief efforts to help devastated communities. Lastly, Bush used repetition to make his point clear and describe the divided nation we live in today. Bush’s speech was a major success and has been watched by millions of people across the country and around the world. We honor all of the selfless people who put the needs of others before themselves on September 11, 2001. We will never forget the events of that day and will continue to teach it so history does not repeat itself. As George Bush once said, “We will remember every rescuer who died in honor. We will remember every family that lives in grief. We will remember….”