September 11: A Day of Remembrance

I just wanted to touch base with all of you in the Department and USAID as we all together stop and think about September 11th. This is a tough day on the calendar for all of us, obviously, because it’s so much more than just any day on any calendar. None of us will ever forget where we were 13 years ago when we were attacked here at home and lost thousands of Americans, just as we all remember two years ago when we were attacked in Benghazi and lost four of our colleagues and friends – Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty, and Tyrone Woods – brave and dedicated professionals, men whose commitment to serve brought them to a dangerous corner of the world, not because they were unaware of the danger but because they wanted to make it safer for so many people whose lives are connected to our own.

There’s much that we’ve been reminded of from those two terrible days, whether it’s how America never rests until murderers are brought to justice, whether it’s Usama bin Ladin or Ahmad Abu Khattalah, or that always, always we find ways to keep our people as safe as we can in a dangerous world, and the ARB implementation and the daily wrestling with risk management underscore how much that effort is central to all of our lives. 9/11/2001 and 9/11/2012, these were both days that forever changed us as people, as public servants, and as a country. But particularly when we look up at the flags raised at half-staff today, we have to find ways to make sure that we carry on in the spirit of those we lost and that we find some ways – big or small – to find lessons in terrible losses.

The truth is more than ever the world needs more of the passion and the persistence and the drive that enlisted Chris Stevens and so many of you in the great enterprise of diplomacy and service. And the very issues we’re wrestling with right now in Iraq, in Syria, still in Libya, or the scourge of ISIL, and across the greater Middle East and North Africa and many other places all remind us of the importance of the work that our country leads, not just for our country but for every country.

So while we honor the lives of those we lost on these two 9/11s – and I hope you’ll honor them in your own way, whether it’s a short prayer or a reflection or sending an email to someone you know who was directly affected on either day to let them know you’re thinking of them – I hope you’ll also never lose sight of why we, all of us, have chosen the life of public service. As I mentioned last year, there is a special saying that I learned a long time ago which has gotten me through some particularly tough losses: Every day is extra. Life can change and even end in a minute, so those of us who are lucky to have today and many more days must make the most of those extra days, our extra days, and our time here to continue the work of those we lost and to be proud of what they represent, and to renew as well our special pledge to continue on in their memory, today and tomorrow and every day.

Take care.

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