Remarks by Former U.S. Ambassador Daniel B. Shapiro at Commemoration of 11th Anniversary of September 11th JNF-KKL Memorial, Jerusalem

Fellow Americans; Israeli friends; family members of the 9/11 victims; members of the diplomatic corps, including representatives of countries who lost citizens on 9/11; Keren Kayemet and JNF Chairman, Effi Stenzler and Co-Chairman Eli Aflalo; Member of Knesset Buji Herzog; Representatives of the KKL-Jewish National Fund; honored guests:

In this place and at this time, permit me to quote from the Talmud:

“לפיכך נברא אדם יחידי בעולם, ללמד שכל המאבד נפש אחת מעלים עליו כאילו איבד עולם מלא…”

“Therefore man was created singly in this world — to teach us that whoever causes a single life to be lost is considered to have caused the loss of an entire world……”

Every year on this day, Americans and all who seek to honor the memory of those we lost at the World Trade Center in New York, at the Pentagon in Washington, and at the crash site of a hijacked aircraft in Pennsylvania, take time out to commemorate and reflect on the events of that day, September 11, 2001.  It was a day when the lives of close to 3000 people were taken from their families and loved ones.  It was also a turning point for people everywhere, not just in the United States, but around the world, as on that day, the world as we knew it was taken from us.

For Americans, who lived through it, we feel a permanent wound, a pain that perhaps dulls with time, but never truly leaves us.  The pain of knowing how our friends, neighbors, fellow citizens died; the pain of watching helplessly as the towers crumbled; the pain of watching families try to carry on in the face of unimaginable heartbreak.  These families exemplify a profound form of heroism: the struggle of loved ones to live with the loss they sustained, not only on that day, but every day since.  While we are gathered here to commemorate this day in history, their lives are a continuous tribute to those we lost.

Today, at this memorial, we remind them that they are not alone.  Americans and freedom-loving people everywhere were united in their experience of that day. The wound of 9/11 was inflicted on individuals, but the pain of injury, death and loss, was felt by the nation, indeed by the entire world.  In response to the horrific tragedy of that day, individuals and nations around the world came together, reached out to the United States with tremendous compassion and a spirit of unity, which in my mind, has not been surpassed since.  I can think of no greater tribute to the lives that were lost, than committing ourselves to preserving this spirit of unity, compassion, support, and solidarity.

In the years that have followed September 11, 2001, a generation of Americans shaped by this event has dedicated itself to ensuring our collective security.  Many young men and women joined the armed services, our intelligence organizations and our diplomatic corps, devoting themselves to fighting terrorism and making our world more secure.  Others refocused their lives and careers, in hopes of contributing to efforts to safeguard and promote democracy and human rights and preventing attacks like 9/11 from happening again.  Thousands of men and women, from the United States and from our allies and partners, have given their lives or been gravely wounded fighting terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq.

While countless have served in uniforms, many Americans have dedicated themselves to ensuring our country remains strong in the face of terror in other meaningful ways.  In 2009, Congress designated September 11th as a National Day of Service and Remembrance.  This is the newest “national day” I can think of— and I’m proud to say that it’s growing to become a day not only to remember those we lost on 9/11, but also to pay tribute to the lives they lived through service.  Last year, in all 50 states, hundreds of thousands of volunteers turned out to paint and refurbish homes, run food drives, help fix and repair schools, and more—all to honor veterans, soldiers, military families, and first responders.  The same is expected later today.  This service is a way we can pay tribute not just on the anniversary of 9/11—but throughout the year.  Throughout the year individuals help a struggling student learn to read.  Throughout the year, whenever needed, our militaries work to bring relief to lives shattered by natural disasters.  Throughout the year, people selflessly volunteer to help others—in hospitals, in homes for the elderly, in homeless shelters.

Americans are not alone in our commitment to service— and we have not been alone in our efforts to rebuild and move forward from the tragedy that terrorism has left behind.  In fact we’ve been joined in partnership with many whose experience with terrorism has put them on the front lines of fighting it and overcoming its tragic consequences.

As we remember the human toll of that terrible day, we also remember the toll that terrorism has taken worldwide— not least among our Israeli friends.  With you today, beside this living and breathing, remarkable memorial, I am reminded of Israel’s losses, but also of its extraordinary resilience.  In my first year as United States Ambassador to Israel, I have been privileged to witness the courage and determination of Israeli civilians, who, after nights spent in bomb shelters, emerged to face a new day, not knowing what it would bring.  Repeatedly, in the wake of rocket attacks, children return to school and parents report for work.  In doing so, they rebuild not only their normal routine but their very communities—and they do so with determination to overcome the paralyzing aim and intent of terrorism.

At this magnificent memorial, the only 9/11 memorial outside the United States that commemorates the names of each of the victims of that attack, and I just want to thank you Effi, for your tremendous – and KKL-JNF’s tremendous commitment to helping us preserve this memory and honoring the citizens and all the loss of lives by helping us with this ceremony.  Among the victims were five Israelis: Daniel Lewin, age 31; Leon Lebor, age 51, Hagai Shefi, age 34, Shai Levinhar, age 29, Alona Avrahami, age 30.

יהי זכרם ברוך.

We remember them today and we hold their families in our hearts and admire their strength, and how they’ve been able to move forward despite the pain.  We’ll be hearing shortly from one of their representatives, Gen. Dov Shefi.  In our hope for a better future, and in our confrontation with the real-time threat and the reality of terrorism, we can look to these families, and all Israelis, for inspiration on how we can remain strong, resilient and committed to our values.

תמיד נדמה לי שאין מקום מתאים יותר לזכור את אלו שאיבדנו ב- 11 לספטמבר מישראל, כי בכל העולם אין עם שמבין יותר את הכאב שלנו ואין מי שמזדהה יותר עם הניסיון שלנו מעם ישראל. והקשר בינינו מתחזק, ואנחנו מאוחדים יותר בגלל הניסיון המשותף שלנו כקורבנות טרור ובגלל המאבק המשותף שלנו בטרור.

 The United States takes pride in our alliance with Israel which has afforded both our countries the benefits of shared expertise on homeland security and global counterterrorism, and an alliance which remains unshakeable in our shared commitment to counter today’s threats: the threat of terrorist organizations who fire missiles at civilians, the threat of extremists who seek to wreak peace treaties and perpetuate conflict; and the threat of the terrorist-sponsoring regime in Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon.  An Iran armed with a nuclear weapon is an unacceptable threat, and we will not permit it to be realized.  Our alliance is based on our shared faith in the human spirit, and in the knowledge that free and democratic societies are not only a demonstration of our values, but also are powerful and effective in denying terrorists their goals of fear and despair.

We take courage and inspiration from the knowledge that wherever terrorism strikes, there are acts of individual heroism that light the darkness.  Such were the acts of the New York firefighters, police and rescue workers at the World Trade Center.  Such was the bravery of the passengers of United Airlines flight 93, set by its hijackers on a collision course with the Capitol building, where I worked that day.  And in Israel, communities come together after every rocket attack to reaffirm their unity and their strength.

Last Friday, I was fortunate to meet with the organization Heroes to Heroes.  Heroes to Heroes is an entirely volunteer organization that focuses on helping American veterans, who have served our country bravely and selflessly, cope with the effects of PTSD.  Heroes to Heroes arranges for groups of veterans to visit Israel, tour the country, and meet Israelis who have been through similar experiences. The group I met with had been graciously hosted by Members of the Knesset and welcomed with open arms by their counterparts at Beit Halochem, the organization ‘Hope for Heroism,” and by many others.  By sharing their stories with Israelis, and by truly being heard by people who know well the pain that can come from terror and the stress of fighting in a war zone, they’re able to find within themselves the sense that their lives, and their contributions, do matter.  Their Israeli counterparts help show them the possibilities that lie ahead, and give reasons to hope and believe in a better future.

Whether serving your country in wartime, or taking the time to help out a person, or a community, in need, when we do, we rekindle the spirit of compassion and the spirit of unity, that brought people around the world together 11 years ago.  This unity allows us to shine brighter, grow stronger, and together, overcome terror.

Israelis here today know that the words of the Talmud, which I began my remarks with earlier, are only half of a defining precept, which not only condemns the taking of a life, but also offers us great hope in the form of the small but heroic act of humanity to save lives, such as we know was so critical on that September day:

“לפיכך נברא אדם יחידי בעולם, ללמד שכל המאבד נפש אחת מעלים עליו כאילו איבד עולם מלא וכל המקיים נפש אחת מעלים עליו כאילו קיים עולם מלא. “

“Therefore man was created singly in this world — to teach us that whoever causes a single life to be lost is considered to have caused the loss of an entire world. And whoever sustains a single life is considered to have sustained an entire world.”

May we all be blessed with faith in the human spirit and the strength to sustain our world.  May we draw inspiration from the courage shown by so many on that September day and may the memory of those we lost be blessed.

Thank you.