Remarks at 2018 Sept. 11 Commemoration

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Administrator David P. Pekoske
Tuesday, September 11, 2018
As Prepared for Delivery


I’d like to thank Tabitha for that beautiful rendition of the National Anthem. Tabitha is one of our dedicated employees at the Freedom Center. I am always so proud of the many facets and talents of our employees.

I join Deputy Administrator Cogswell and the entire senior leadership team in welcoming you to this very special ceremony.

It’s a privilege to have our Secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen joining us today. An early leader in TSA and now the leader of our Department with a clear and tireless focus on the men and women of DHS.

Secretary Mineta, TSA’s first secretary. The person who laid the cornerstone of our agency has inspired me for decades and whose presence further inspires us all this morning.

I want to recognize Wendell “Dell” Hart and Chris Howard. Please stand to be acknowledged.

Chris Howard is a firefighter for FDNY. His father, George Howard, courageously gave his life as a former Port Authority Police Officer and volunteer firefighter responding to the call to service on 9/11.

Dell is one of our canine handlers at Indianapolis International Airport. His canine is named after George Howard.

Chris, who is at the World Trade Center memorial today, we thank you for your service. And we want you to know that we hold your father in honor and gratitude for his sacrifice.

Dell, we also thank you for your service and for representing TSA well, each and every day you wear our uniform.

I’m also glad to see so many of our dedicated employees here this morning – and glad to see so many very special guests.

Our theme for this year’s 9/11 remembrance is “Remember. Unite. Serve.”


It is said that “It is often in the darkest skies that we see the brightest stars.”

After one of the darkest days in our nation’s history seventeen years ago, all of us were called to service in support of those who lost family and friends, and we were called to service in patriotism to affirm American ideals, everyone here - and the American people - became the brightest stars.


By coming together every year to pause and remember the victims and their families, we help each other to stay strong and never forget the lessons we learned that day.

One of those lessons is the importance of unity – that we are stronger together.

I look around this morning, and I see so many people in uniform – TSOs, members of the U.S. Armed Forces, commercial flight crews, and members of Fire and Police Departments.

We wear different uniforms, but we have the same resolve – to ensure that nothing like the tragedy our country experienced 17 years ago ever happens again.


There’s a generation of Americans coming up who are too young to remember 9/11. Soon, there will be another generation of Americans who have not lived through 9/11 at all.

We owe it to the men and women who so tragically perished on that day, not only to remind ourselves of their sacrifice, but also to pass on their stories to those who were not there – stories of courage, valor and sacrifice; stories of compassion and humanity; stories of unity and perseverance.

Everything we do here at TSA, today and every day, is to make sure that our commitment remains strong and our resolve does not waiver. This is how we honor those we have lost.

Since our inception, TSA has lived by the motto “Not on My Watch.” This has served as a powerful call to action for TSA.

But we know that we are stronger together. So today, I ask each and every one of you, whether you are a TSA or a DHS employee, a veteran, an active duty member of the U.S. military, an industry partner, a law enforcement officer, a first responder or a private citizen, to join me in adopting and embracing a new creed: “Not on Our Watch.”

Moment of Silence (Flight 11, North Tower, 0846)

And now, I ask you to join me in taking a moment in respect and reflection, to honor those who we lost seventeen years ago; those we have lost since in the war against terrorism, and in appreciation for the men and women who continue to watch over us and guard our freedom in this country and around the globe.

Flag Unfurling

Today is also a special day in TSA history. I often say that TSA has a great story to tell and I want us to have a flag that depicts what we stand for. I would like to draw your attention to the image behind me – I am proud to present for the first time publicly, our official TSA flag.

Our flag depicts TSA’s mission, the standards we uphold, and is an important part of TSA’s unique identity.

 As you can see, the flag is set on a solid DHS blue background. The eagle is depicted with outstretched wings – a pose signifying protection, vigilance and commitment. The eagle’s wings break through the ring indicating freedom of movement, similar to the DHS flag.

The 9 stars and 11 points are a subtle reference to the tragic events of September 11, 2001. The 11 points distinctly radiate from behind the eagle’s protection.

These elements are also used on the Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS) badge, and incorporating them on our flag is a reflection of the men and women of the FAMS.

The lower half of the design represents TSA’s transportation mission on land, sea, and air, represented by the waves from the DHS flag and the gray modal lines moving toward the eagle’s protection.

The creation of an official TSA flag was a lengthy process, with three phases of development that included crowdsourced feedback on Idea Factory, Advisory Board review, and my own personal input during each phase.

Thank you to everyone who had a role in this process, especially the teams of designers.