“Mr. President, 18 years ago—on a bright, clear-skied September morning—without warning, our nation was attacked.
“Many of us probably remember where we were on that horrible day.
“I had that morning off. I was at home with my nearly two-year-old daughter. We didn’t have the TV on. We had a couple of gentlemen at the house…I was getting a brand-new furnace that day.
“What would be normally a couple hour installation turned into an all-day event, as those men would take time off from installing our new furnace, to run into the other room so we could see what was going on, on the television.
“I had two phone calls that morning. The first, was early, it was from a neighbor, and she said, ‘Joni, do you have the TV on?’ And I said, ‘Well no, Wanda, I don’t, what’s going on?’ She said, ‘Joni, you just need to turn the TV on.’
“So I did. And I saw the horrible events unfolding right in front of us.
“The second phone call I got was from my Iowa Army National Guard unit. ‘Captain Ernst, we’re doing a one-hundred percent accountability check. We need you to stay by the phone all day, so we know how we can get ahold of you.’
“One-hundred percent accountability.
“It was an experience many of us had never felt before—the terrifying shock of knowing that the country we love and our fellow Americans were under attack.
“Mr. President, our adversaries sought to tear us apart with their cowardly acts. But, instead, they brought us together as Americans.
“For in those terrible moments, we also saw the very, very best of country—the firefighters, the police officers, the first responders, and the ordinary citizens who courageously put their lives on the line to save countless others.
“On that day, as individuals and as a nation, we came together in a unique way, and we also made a pledge to never forget…
“To never forget the nearly 3,000 victims and the families that they left behind;
“To never forget the heroism of both our first responders and those everyday men and women who selflessly acted to save lives;
“To never forget the importance of defending our homeland and the great democratic principles we stand for.
“It’s a pledge I personally take very seriously. It’s why I organized this event for my colleagues to come to the floor and to share their memories and thoughts on today, this 18th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks.
“It’s why I work so hard to make sure our armed forces have the technology, support, and resources they need to defend our nation from threats both here at home and abroad.
“It’s why I cosponsored and helped to finally get signed into law a permanent reauthorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund – keeping our nation’s promise to support the first responders who continue to sacrifice their health and even their lives from their work in the post-9/11 recovery efforts.
“And it’s why we should never ever take our nation and our freedoms for granted.
“Mr. President, I am one, just one, of the millions of Americans keeping that promise to never forget.
“In fact, today, back home in Iowa, there are countless folks that are honoring that vow in their own, thoughtful way.
“Many use today’s anniversary as a day of service, performing acts of kindness throughout Iowa.
“Others come together with their communities to honor and remember those who were lost.
“It’s really wonderful to see all of the ways folks are doing that – from walking in the 9/11 March to the Capitol in Des Moines, to visiting the 9/11 NEVER FORGET Mobile Exhibit currently at the Clay County Fair, to participating in the Annual 9/11 Moment of Silence Motorcycle Ride in Mason City.
“And for some of our fellow Iowans, today will be spent remembering loved ones lost in the attack.
“Folks like Newton’s Jean Cleere, whose husband, Jim – who was a loving, good-humored, God-fearing giant of a man – who never came home from a fateful business trip to the World Trade Center 18 years ago.
“For nearly two decades now, Jean has been on a crusade to keep Jim’s memory alive and well.
“She helped raise funds for Newton’s very own 9/11 memorial.
“She speaks to local students, educating them about the events of that day, 18 years ago.
“And she has given her testimony all over Iowa…And for folks in Iowa, they’ve probably see her driving across the state. She has a pretty special license plate, which reads: N-V-R-4-G-T – ‘Never Forget.’
“Today – and every day – Iowans are keeping that sacred promise.
“We will always remember Jim Cleere and the nearly 3,000 others who lost their lives that tragic day.
“We will always honor the heroes who selflessly sacrificed and saved countless lives.
“We will always rise up to defend our nation and its citizens.
“We will never forget. That is our sacred promise.