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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > Former Secretaries of State > Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell > Speeches and Remarks > 2002 > February

"After September 11th: Images From Ground Zero"

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Remarks at the Launch of the Educational and Cultural Affairs Exhibit
Benjamin Franklin Room, Washington, DC
February 27, 2002

Thank you. I've never heard anybody call me a "former New Yorker" before. (Laughter.) That hurt a little bit. New York was my place of birth and home for so many years, and will always have a place in my heart. And I still treasure the times that I go back now, and two of my children live in New York again, so we're reverting back to our original homeland.

I want to thank Joel and Bob for this beautiful print, and thank you, Pat, for that warm introduction. And my colleagues, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to "After September 11th: Images from Ground Zero." There's not much that I can add to what these poignant images already say. They are stunning. They are stunning in every sense of the word. They stun us with the magnitude of the horror that they have captured, and they stun us with the chilling artistry of the photographs themselves.

The events captured here happened in New York, but they moved the world. They should be made available therefore to people around the world, and they will be. Under the leadership of Assistant Secretary Pat Harrison, the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs has worked with Director Robert Macdonald of the Museum of the City of New York and with photographer Joel Meyerowitz to create this special exhibition.

And over the next three years, sets of these photographs will be exhibited in some 60 cities around the world, beginning next month in London, Rome, Manila, Santiago and Panama City. We send these chilling photographs out to the world as a remembrance and as a reminder, a remembrance of those who perished, and a reminder of our commitment to pursuing terrorists wherever they may try to hide.

September 11th was a very personal experience for each of us; each of us remembers where we were when we first learned of the attacks; each of us remembers our initial chilling impressions and our response. These images remind me that our country, our people and our families are very precious, and that we must do all we can to protect them from the scourge of terrorism. The images also remind me what a privilege it is for me to lead the men and women of the State Department. Civil Service employees, Foreign Service Officers, Foreign Service Nationals, political appointees all came through on September 11th, and have been coming through ever since.

The State Department family knows terrorism firsthand. It comes with the territory. Today, in many of our embassies around the world, the embassy employees and their families, to include their children, are at risk just by being there and just by being members of the American community. We have two plaques downstairs in the lobby of this Department that are filled with the names of those who died in the line of duty, many of them victims of terrorism.

On September 11th, the threat was brought home to this building and to our colleagues across the river at the Pentagon, where we lost so many of our friends and colleagues. In the first hours after the attacks, the men and women of the State Department did not know what would happen next. There was another plane that had gone down; it might have been heading here; it might have been heading to the White House; were there other planes? I was not here. I was flying back from Lima, Peru. Rumors flew all over the Department, all over the city, all over the country.

Nevertheless, just as thousands of people went to their place of duty in New York City, at the Pentagon, to do what was necessary, hundreds of people stayed or returned to this building after it had been evacuated and began working on our response to this terrible tragedy. In many cases, people worked all that night, even while they could look out their windows and see the smoke rising from the Pentagon.

We had so many volunteers that we had to turn people away. In the end, some 1,300 individuals served on five different 9/11 task forces run out of our Operations Center and our Executive Secretariat. Thousands more State Department employees in Washington and around the world have served and are still serving on the frontlines of the campaign against terrorism. I'm very proud of the men and women of my Department. I know that America is proud of them, too.

And I would like to be able to personally thank everyone who has served on the task forces, who have served with the Bureaus and in the field fighting terrorism. Wherever I travel, I try to meet those wonderful embassy employees and to thank them for their hard work and loyalty. And here in the Department, we are always looking for opportunities to recognize those who have excelled, or who have just done their job in the best possible way.

Unfortunately I can't shake every hand in the Department, much as I'd like to, but we do want to recognize all those who have contributed. So I'm delighted that we will be giving special certificates of appreciation to the people who worked on our 9/11 task forces. And I would like to invite two of the 1,300 dedicated State Department employees who served on the task forces to come stand with me now and represent their colleagues. Jill Hutchings of the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, and Sheila Peters of the Bureau of Political and Military Affairs. These two women exemplify the courage and devotion to duty of State Department employees worldwide.

Jill is a Presidential Management Intern in the Office of Counterterrorism, who has been Ambassador Frank Taylor's right-hand person since September 11th. Jill is one of those who stayed in the building on 9/11, rolled up her sleeves and got down to work, and she hasn't stopped since. Jill wrote and rewrote points and tactics and strategies; she made sure the counterterrorism task force was staffed around the clock. She is a dynamo who worked countless late nights and weekends. For Jill, no job was too small -- for that matter, too big -- and no task ever daunted her.

Sheila is a Foreign Service Officer, who served as a manager of the Political Military Cell of Task Force 1, and is now Director of its successor, the Political Military Coalition Working Group. She has served in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, and her deep knowledge of South Asia makes her an invaluable member of our team and her contribution to Operation Enduring Freedom especially important.

My friends, remembrance requires a face. Events that are anonymous are events forgotten. With September 11th, that must never happen. This exhibition that you are now all invited to see, and so many hundreds of thousands of people around the world will see, will continue to put a face on a tragedy that befell our nation on the 11th of September, a tragedy which took so many innocent lives, but a tragedy which at the same time unified us once again, gave us another sense of purpose and vision as a people, showed the world what Americans were made of, gave us the opportunity to lead a worldwide coalition to go after not only the perpetrators of these attacks, but to go after terrorists around the world.

And so with this exhibit, let us once again dedicate ourselves to the proposition that terrorism must be defeated, it must be destroyed, and we will give it the energy, the time, the effort, the persistence and the patience necessary to make that come true. That is President Bush's determined objective; it is certainly mine; and I know it is the objective of each and every person in this room, and of all Americans and freedom-loving people around the world.

Thank you so very much.



Released on February 27, 2002

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