Blair on 9/11 Attacks & Memorial Service New York

9/11 – and why I, a Brit, would be proud to be American – click here

Comment at end of page

UPDATE: 11th September, 2008

9/11 – 7 YEARS ON

“A New York Minute”

An American friend of ours died as a result of this atrocity. He wasn’t in the Twin Towers at the time but in a neighbouring building. Today we think of him and the thousands of others whose lives were ended so cruelly, suddenly and indiscriminately.

And it all seems so strange to commemorate 9/11 without the words of Mr Blair. Shortly after the 2001 attacks he said this:

“America has its faults as a society, as we have ours.

But I think of the Union of America born out of the defeat of slavery.

I think of its Constitution, with its inalienable rights granted to every citizen still a model for the world.

I think of a black man, born in poverty, who became chief of their armed forces and is now secretary of state Colin Powell and I wonder frankly whether such a thing could have happened here.

I think of the Statue of Liberty and how many refugees, migrants and the impoverished passed its light and felt that if not for them, for their children, a new world could indeed be theirs.

I think of a country where people who do well, don’t have questions asked about their accent, their class, their beginnings but have admiration for what they have done and the success they’ve achieved.

I think of those New Yorkers I met, still in shock, but resolute; the fire fighters and police, mourning their comrades but still head held high.”

– British Prime Minister Tony Blair


Still we can all rest easy in our beds. Mr Brown has spoken out in support of America.

But where’s the beef? Perhaps he’ll ring Tony as well as President Bush later, to try to borrow some of the good Scotch stuff, and a glass of whisky to wash it down. It’ll make his seemingly inevitable exit a little less painful. This Sky poll report says that in marginal/swing seats, given a choice between a Brown led Labour and Cameron led Tories, Cameron would achieve a swing of 10.5%.  Is that ALL? With Blair at the helm again … (OK, OK, I know he won’t be persuaded back) … that threatened swing in those marginals could soon disappear. IMHO.

11th September, 2007 9_11_01_twintowers_wtc_nyork.jpg


It only seems like yesterday, but it’s six years since those of us near a television set, stopped in shock and disbelief, and tried to absorb the dreadful crimes in the USA.

At that moment, Tony Blair tied his – and probably our – future to that of the USA in this fight against terror. I was proud of him then, and I’m still proud of him.

When the USA was attacked on 11th September 2001, Tony Blair was attending the British Trades Union Congress Meeting. He gave this short speech before departing early. Below this, you can read his speech at the Memorial Service in New York.

Tony Blair: Statement at the Trade Union Congress on the 9/11 Attacks

delivered 11 September 2001

“There have been the most terrible, shocking events taking place in the United States of America within the last hour or so, including two hijacked planes being flown deliberately into the World Trade Center. I’m afraid we can only imagine the terror and the carnage there, and the many, many innocent people that will have lost their lives. I know that you would want to join with me in sending the deepest condolences to President Bush and to the American people on behalf of the British people at these terrible events.

This mass terrorism is the new evil in our world today. It is perpetrated by fanatics who are utterly indifferent to the sanctity of human life and we, the democracies of this world, are going to have to come together to fight it together and eradicate this evil completely from our world. Delegates, I hope you will understand that I don’t believe it would be appropriate to carry on with the speech I was going to give you today. I know I have issued copies of the speech, we will make sure all delegates get copies of the speech but I think inappropriate to give that speech now, here. I will obviously want to carry on the discussion we have had about this issues that concern us.

I will now return to London and once again I thank you for your indulgence here. I am very, very sorry it has worked out the way it has but I know that you would want to join with me in offering our deepest sympathy to the American people and our absolute shock and outrage at what has happened.”

Text of Tony Blair’s reading at New York Memorial Service

This is the text of the reading given by the prime minister, Tony Blair, at the memorial service for British victims of the New York terrorist attacks in St Thomas’s Church, New York.

Friday September 21, 2001

“There is no reading, there are no words, that can truly comfort those who are grieving the loss of their loved ones today; and no matter how we try to make sense of it all it is hard, so hard, to do. Nine days on, there is still the shock and disbelief; there is anger; there is fear; but there is also, throughout the world, a profound sense of solidarity; there is courage; there is a surging of the human spirit.We wanted to be here today, to offer our support and sympathy to the families of the lost ones. Many are British. Amid the enormity of what has happened to America, nobody will forget that this was the worst terrorist attack on British citizens in my country’s history.The bonds between our countries for so long so strong, are even stronger now.

For my reading I have chosen the final words of The Bridge of San Luis Rey written by Thornton Wilder in 1927. It is about a tragedy that took place in Peru, when a bridge collapsed over a gorge and five people died.

A witness to the deaths, wanting to make sense of them and explain the ways of God to his fellow human beings, examined the lives of the people who died, and these words were said by someone who knew the victims, and who had been through the many emotions, and the many stages, of bereavement and loss.

‘But soon we will die, and all memories of those five will have left earth, and we ourselves shall be loved for a while and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead, and the bridge is love. The only survival, the only meaning.'”

Tony Blair’s speech in Parliament, 14 September 2001

“Mr Speaker, I am grateful that you agreed to the recall of Parliament to debate the hideous and foul events in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania that took place on Tuesday 11 September.I thought it particularly important in view of the fact that these attacks were not just attacks upon people and buildings; nor even merely upon the USA; these were attacks on the basic democratic values in which we all believe so passionately and on the civilised world. It is therefore right that Parliament, the fount of our own democracy, makes its democratic voice heard.There will be different shades of opinion heard today. That again is as it should be.

But let us unite in agreeing this: what happened in the United States on Tuesday was an act of wickedness for which there can never be justification. Whatever the cause, whatever the perversion of religious feeling, whatever the political belief, to inflict such terror on the world; to take the lives of so many innocent and defenceless men, women, and children, can never ever be justified.

Let us unite too, with the vast majority of decent people throughout the world, in sending our condolences to the government and the people of America. They are our friends and allies. We the British are a people that stand by our friends in time of need, trial and tragedy, and we do so without hesitation now.

The events are now sickeningly familiar to us. Starting at 08.45 US time, two hijacked planes were flown straight into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York. Shortly afterwards at 09.43, another hijacked plane was flown into the Pentagon in Washington.

At 10.05 the first tower collapsed; at 10.28 the second; later another building at the World Trade Center. The heart of New York’s financial district was devastated, carnage, death and injury everywhere.

Around 10.30 we heard reports that a fourth hijacked aircraft had crashed south of Pittsburgh.

I would like on behalf of the British people to express our admiration for the selfless bravery of the New York and American emergency services, many of whom lost their lives.

As we speak, the total death toll is still unclear, but it amounts to several thousands.

Because the World Trade Center was the home of many big financial firms, and because many of their employees are British, whoever committed these acts of terrorism will have murdered at least a hundred British citizens, maybe many more. Murder of British people in New York is no different in nature from their murder in the heart of Britain itself. In the most direct sense, therefore, we have not just an interest but an obligation to bring those responsible to account.

To underline the scale of the loss we are talking about we can think back to some of the appalling tragedies this House has spoken of in the recent past. We can recall the grief aroused by the tragedy at Lockerbie, in which 270 people were killed, 44 of them British. In Omagh, the last terrorist incident to lead to a recall of Parliament, 29 people lost their lives. Each life lost a tragedy. Each one of these events a nightmare for our country. But the death toll we are confronting here is of a different order.

In the Falklands War 255 British Service men perished. During the Gulf War we lost 47.

In this case, we are talking here about a tragedy of epoch making proportions.

And as the scale of this calamity becomes clearer, I fear that there will be many a community in our country where heart-broken families are grieving the loss of a loved one. I have asked the Secretary of State to ensure that everything they need by way of practical support for them is being done.

Here in Britain, we have instituted certain precautionary measures of security. We have tightened security measures at all British airports, and ensured that no plane can take off unless their security is assured. We have temporarily redirected air traffic so that planes do not fly over central London. City Airport is reopening this morning.

We have also been conscious of the possibility of economic disruption. Some sectors like the airlines and insurance industry will be badly affected. But financial markets have quickly stabilised. The oil producers have helped keep the oil price steady. Business is proceeding as far as possible, as normal.

There are three things we must now take forward urgently.

First, we must bring to justice those responsible. Rightly, President Bush and the US Government have proceeded with care. They did not lash out. They did not strike first and think afterwards. Their very deliberation is a measure of the seriousness of their intent.

They, together with allies, will want to identify, with care, those responsible. This is a judgement that must and will be based on hard evidence.

Once that judgement is made, the appropriate action can be taken. It will be determined, it will take time, it will continue over time until this menace is properly dealt with and its machinery of terror destroyed.

But one thing should be very clear. By their acts, these terrorists and those behind them have made themselves the enemies of the civilised world.

The objective will be to bring to account those who have organised, aided, abetted and incited this act of infamy; and those that harbour or help them have a choice: either to cease their protection of our enemies; or be treated as an enemy themselves.

Secondly, this is a moment when every difference between nations, every divergence of interest, every irritant in our relations, are put to one side in one common endeavour. The world should stand together against this outrage.

NATO has already, for the first time since it was founded in 1949, invoked Article 5 and determined that this attack in America will be considered as an attack against the Alliance as a whole.

The UN Security Council on Wednesday passed a resolution which set out its readiness to take all necessary steps to combat terrorism.

From Russia, China, the EU, from Arab states, from Asia and the Americas, from every continent of the world has come united condemnation. This solidarity should be maintained and translated into support for action.

We do not yet know the exact origin of this evil. But, if, as appears likely, it is so-called Islamic fundamentalists, we know they do not speak or act for the vast majority of decent law-abiding Muslims throughout the world. I say to our Arab and Muslim friends: neither you nor Islam is responsible for this; on the contrary, we know you share our shock at this terrorism; and we ask you as friends to make common cause with us in defeating this barbarism that is totally foreign to the true spirit and teachings of Islam.

And I would add that, now more than ever, we have reason not to let the Middle East Peace Process slip still further but if at all possible to reinvigorate it and move it forward.

Thirdly, whatever the nature of the immediate response to these terrible events in

America, we need to re-think dramatically the scale and nature of the action the world takes to combat terrorism.

We know a good deal about many of these terror groups. But as a world we have not been effective at dealing with them.

And of course it is difficult. We are democratic. They are not. We have respect for human life. They do not. We hold essentially liberal values. They do not. As we look into these issues it is important that we never lose sight of our basic values. But we have to understand the nature of the enemy and act accordingly.

Civil liberties are a vital part of our country, and of our world. But the most basic liberty of all is the right of the ordinary citizen to go about their business free from fear or terror. That liberty has been denied, in the cruellest way imaginable, to the passengers aboard the hijacked planes, to those who perished in the trade towers and the Pentagon, to the hundreds of rescue workers killed as they tried to help.

So we need to look once more: nationally and internationally at extradition laws, and the mechanisms for international justice; at how these terrorist groups are financed and their money laundered: and the links between terror and crime and we need to frame a response that will work, and hold internationally.

For this form of terror knows no mercy; no pity, and it knows no boundaries.

And let us make this reflection. A week ago, anyone suggesting terrorists would kill thousands of innocent people in downtown New York would have been dismissed as alarmist. It happened. We know that these groups are fanatics, capable of killing without discrimination. The limits on the numbers they kill and their methods of killing are not governed by morality. The limits are only practical or technical. We know, that they would, if they could, go further and use chemical or biological or even nuclear weapons of mass destruction. We know, also, that there are groups or people, occasionally states, who trade the technology and capability for such weapons.

It is time this trade was exposed, disrupted, and stamped out. We have been warned by the events of 11 September. We should act on the warning.

So there is a great deal to do and many details to be filled in, much careful work to be undertaken over the coming days, weeks and months.

We need to mourn the dead; and then act to protect the living.

Terrorism has taken on a new and frightening aspect.

The people perpetrating it wear the ultimate badge of the fanatic: they are prepared to commit suicide in pursuit of their beliefs.

Our beliefs are the very opposite of the fanatics. We believe in reason, democracy and tolerance.

These beliefs are the foundation of our civilised world. They are enduring, they have served us well and as history has shown we have been prepared to fight, when necessary to defend them. But the fanatics should know: we hold these beliefs every bit as strongly as they hold theirs.

Now is the time to show it.”

Archive of PM’s speeches from May 1997 Visit the BBC’s “On this Day” website for extensive coverage of 9/11

Bush to Blair: “Thank you for coming, friend”

After being the first to stand by America in its hour of need, Tony Blair was welcomed in Congress by George Bush.

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3 Responses to “Blair on 9/11 Attacks & Memorial Service New York”

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