Ten Septembers have come and gone since that awful morning. But on this 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, we are summoned once more to honor those we lost by keeping our country strong and true to their memory.
Over the coming days, we will remember nearly 3,000 innocent victims - fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters who were simply going about their daily lives on a beautiful Tuesday morning. And we'll talk to our children about what happened on that day, and what's happened since.
Like every American, I'll never forget how I heard the terrible news, on the car radio on my way to work in Chicago. Yet like a lot of younger Americans, our daughters have no memory of that day. Malia was just 3; Sasha was an infant. As they've grown, Michelle and I faced the same challenge as other parents in deciding how to talk with our children about 9/11.
One of the things we've told them is that the worst terrorist attack in American history also brought out the best in our country. Firefighters, police and first responders rushed into danger to save others. Americans came together in candlelight vigils, in our houses of worship and on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Volunteers lined up to give blood and drove across the country to lend a hand. Schoolchildren donated their savings. Communities, faith groups and businesses collected food and clothing. We were united, as Americans.
This is the true spirit of America we must reclaim this anniversary - the ordinary goodness and patriotism of the American people and the unity that we needed to move forward together, as one nation.
Indeed, the last decade has been a challenging one for our country. But we have also seen the strength of the United States- in cities that have refused to give in to fear; in communities that have persevered through hard economic times; and, above all, in our men and women in uniform and their families who have borne an extraordinary burden for our security and our values.
The perpetrators of those attacks wanted to terrorize us, but they are no match for our resilience. Today, our country is more secure and our enemies are weaker. Yet while we have delivered justice to Osama bin Laden and put al-Qaeda on the path to defeat, we must never waver in the task of protecting our nation.
On a day when others sought to destroy, we choose to build. Once again, Sept. 11 is a National Day of Service and Remembrance, and at Serve.gov every American can make a commitment to honor the victims and heroes of 9/11 by serving our neighbors and communities.
Finally, on a day when others tried to divide us, we can regain the sense of common purpose that stirred in our hearts 10 years ago. As a nation, we face difficult challenges, and as citizens in a democratic society we engage in vigorous debates about the future. But as we do, let's never forget the lesson we learned anew 10 years ago - that our differences pale beside what unites us and that when we choose to move forward together, as one American family, the United States doesn't just endure, we can emerge from our tests and trials stronger than before.
That's the America we were on 9/11 and in the days that followed.
That's the America we can and must always be.