Although I’ve been in the building many times before – and many times since – I was not at the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. But it was a day that marked a new direction for our country – and for me.
Today, I honor and remember some of the selfless heroes at the Pentagon whose courage and sense of duty soared on that fateful day. These were men and women who weren’t serving in uniform, or may have previously served, and those that didn’t sign up for the military but found themselves embedded in the midst of a war. And they stood their ground – doing their jobs – just as did every Soldier, Airman, Marine or Sailor who was there.
When we think of 9/11 civilian heroes, we often think of the firefighters, the police officers and the paramedics, and we should.
But as the PBS documentary 9/11 Inside the Pentagon illustrates, there were also facility tradesmen who were called into service inside a burning building. The plumbers, structural engineers and pipefitters – who didn’t sign up for this – went back inside to stabilize the water pressure and isolate fire leaks while portions of the building collapsed around them.
This should be a gut check to all of us. 9/11 is about people who did the best they could do under difficult circumstances. These were our next door neighbors. They acted with the honor and valor we see routinely in our service members and veterans – even though they had not raised their hands and taken an oath. These civilians stepped up and did what they had to do – and saved hundreds of lives.
Today I want to recognize these invisible point men and women, many of whom will forever go unnamed but will never be forgotten. They ran in, knowing they may never walk out. Today – and every day – we salute you.