- The Washington Times - Monday, December 18, 2006

On September 11, 2001, our nation was attacked by an enemy that sought our destruction. I will never forget the bravery and courage of our first responders and of ordinary citizens who chose to run toward — not away from — the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers that day.

The atrocities committed on that terrible day broke our hearts, but they could never break our spirit. But even in the depths of sadness, our strength, our courage and our commitment to defend freedom never wavered. New York and America rose to meet the challenge that day.

Today, steel will rise on a soaring tribute to New York and our great nation’s resilience and show the world that what our enemies sought to destroy — our most cherished values, our democracy, our independence, our way of life — stand taller than ever.

Today we raise massive 25-ton steel columns that have journeyed nearly 5,000 miles to form the 1,776-foot-tall Freedom Tower, marking the year of our nation’s birth and proudly declaring our steadfast allegiance to freedom.

The new tower will grace our skies, soar to the heavens, lift our hearts and stand as a beacon of freedom to all peoples of the world. As steel rises to the sky, it will call us to embrace a tremendous future filled with limitless potential.

It will be a great new symbol of New York City and this country, and of our resolve to triumph in the face of terror. Our grand tribute will honor our nearly 3,000 lost mothers, fathers, sons and daughters and will again prove to the entire world that the enemies of freedom have failed, and that the enduring spirit, courage and character of the American people remain as strong as ever.

In the days and weeks after September 11, it was not just the strength and the unity of New Yorkers that brought us through, it was the help of people from every corner of America that turned the tide.

Recently, I visited Lynchburg, Va., where the steel was being fabricated and I was overcome by the hundreds of people who wanted to play a role in rebuilding the World Trade Center site. These sturdy beams being placed today now contain thousands of signatures of first responders, victims’ families, ordinary citizens — of Americans — who are a part of this historic undertaking.

That is the spirit of unity, courage and compassion that defines the American people — the character that empowers us to meet any challenge. It allows us to honor our immeasurable debt of gratitude to the heroes of September 11 by continuing to build, to thrive and to live in the freedom that forms the indomitable core of our American nation.

The people of New York will never forget the tremendous outpouring of support we received from every corner of the country.

Today, as steel stretches to the sky, we give back to our nation and build America’s Tower — reclaiming our glorious skyline, and creating a testament to our resiliency as a people, a city, and a country in the wake of the attacks.

At its top will shine a beacon, evoking the torch of the Statue of Liberty that stands nearby in New York Harbor — an unmistakable symbol to the world of our enduring promise, the unwavering strength of this nation, and the resolve to continue to fight for freedom.

Together, New York is reclaiming its skyline, with the optimism and hope that is fundamental to the American spirit. It is that same spirit of unity that will allow us together to overcome the challenges our nation faces today and is the reason America is the greatest nation the world has ever known.

George E. Pataki is governor of the State of New York.

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