Honors Fallen Peace Officers at Memorial Service
May 15, 2002
12:45 P.M. EDT
Thank you very much. Thank you all. Please be seated. Thank you for that kind
welcome, and thank you for the privilege of joining you today at this annual
Today, and every May 15th, the American flag flies at half-staff in grateful
memory -- in grateful memory -- of thousands of fallen police officers. This
year we pay special homage to 480 men and women whose names are being added
to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. We do so with enormous respect
and appreciation for the courage and character of all who have answered the
call to be a law enforcement officer.
I want to thank my friend, Steve Young, the President of the FOP, for inviting
me to be here, and I want to thank him for his leadership. I want to thank members
of my Cabinet who are here. I want to thank the members of the United States
Congress who have joined us on the stage and who are here with us, as well.
Thank you all for coming.
I appreciate Aliza Clark and those who work so hard to help the families of
the fallen. I want to thank the United States Capitol Police -- Vernon Baker.
I want to thank Daniel Rodriguez for lending his fabulous voice in tribute after
tribute to the greatness of America. (Applause.) And I want to thank Marc Anthony,
as well. (Applause.)
So many family members of fallen officers have come to Washington for this service,
and I want you to know we are honored by your presence. Standing by you today,
and always, are brother and sister officers who are faithful to the memory of
I thank all the officers in attendance, and the departments you represent. Thank
you for your loyalty to one another and for your service to America. The loyalty
of police officers is seen in the neighborhoods of America when our officers
are on duty and whenever one of your comrades is suddenly taken from us. That
happens on average about three times a week in the life of our nation. And each
time we witness the powerful family that unites the police officers of America.
When an officer dies in the line of duty, an entire community will pause in
sorrow and in admiration with the depth of feeling Americans reserve for people
who protect us every day.
Last September the 11th, our entire nation grieved at the loss of 72 police
officers. It was a loss unlike any we have known before, all in one moment,
all at one place. More than 300 firefighters and rescue workers died, as well
in New York, along with thousands they were trying to save. As the buildings
fell, the sound, said one survivor, "was like the roar of the devil."
September the 11th was a day of great horror and great heroism. It was the first
day of a long struggle against determined enemies. It was the first day in which
this mighty nation will hunt down the killers and their like one by one and
bring them to justice. (Applause.)
It's the saddest day in the history of law enforcement. In his final moments,
trapped in rubble, Officer Dominick Pezzulo called out to one of his fellows,
and he said, "Just remember me." The last voice he heard was Officer
Will Jimeno, promising him they would never forget. So, Dominick, today we remember
-- we remember courage and bravery and sacrifice.
Sacrifice like that of John -- Police Officer John Perry, who retired on September
the 11th. Early that morning, he had turned in his badge at the 40th Precinct.
A moment later, he heard the sound of the first attack and the radio traffic
that followed. He put his badge back on and was last seen directing people to
safety at the bottom of the tower.
I have the police shield of another officer who died on that day. His name was
George G. Howard. His mother gave me this badge. She gave it to me in love for
George, but she gave it to me because I'm confident she wanted her President
never to forget what took place. (Applause.)
We call all those we honor today, those who lost their life in 9/11 and those
who lost their life before and after 9/11, heroes -- because they are heroes.
Their families are proud of them, and always will be. Yet there's not a husband
or wife here today, or a parent or child, who would not trade the honor to have
them back. In a eulogy for his son who died on September the 11th, one father
said, "I know he's in good hands, but I wish he was in my hands."
We know how you feel.
There are more than 700,000 sworn law officers across America. When the oath
is administered they accept great responsibilities -- and accept great risk.
Even in the most routine moments on watch or patrol, you protect us. Even on
the quietest day, the next call may send you into extremes of danger. America
is grateful. You just need to know, America is grateful.
We have confidence in our law enforcement because we know the kind of men and
women we select and we know the nature of the men and women we train for the
job. They're the ones who face down threats, who place themselves between the
innocent and the guilty, who step into scenes of chaos and violence thinking
only of whom they can help.
No one goes into police work for the money, nor does anybody put on the uniform
expecting a life of ease. You take the job because you respect the law and you
know that someone has to do the challenging work of enforcing it. Fortunately,
this great country -- America -- has never been short of such men and women
and your devoted service, and we are very grateful.
Every day in everyplace in America we can be thankful for the integrity and
courage of our officers of our law. Today we give thanks for the special courage
of the fallen
-- those whose watch ended with their lives. America cannot fully repay our
debt to them and to the families. We can only acknowledge that debt, which we
do today with pride and affection of an entire nation.
May God bless you all, and may God bless America. (Applause.)