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I want to thank all of you for taking time out of your busy schedules to be here today. Recent events have required all of us to work harder than ever before, and I want to thank you for that as well.
Please know that, in the wake of the terrible attacks against our country in New York and, closer to home, at the Pentagon, I intend to keep all of you informed about our ongoing efforts to shape what has clearly become a new era in our nations transportation system.
Ill talk more about that in a minute. But first, let me share a few personal thoughts of my own.
Two weeks ago our nation, indeed the entire world, watched in stunned disbelief as a determined enemy piloted hijacked airliners into two of our greatest landmarks, deliberately and without warning, murdering thousands. The aftermath of this attack is more horrible than any of us could have imagined.
In these past days, we have sought solace by turning to others loved ones, friends, colleagues. I offer my personal condolences to all of those within our DOT family who lost a friend or a loved one as a result of these terrible events. Words alone cannot adequately express the depth of my sorrow.
None of us can comprehend how or why these terrorist attacks occurred, and only two weeks removed, the process of coping and healing may seem nearly impossible. Even those of us not touched directly by this tragedy may experience a range of emotions -- anxiety, anger, helplessness, fear, sadness or shock.
Well, heres what Id ask you to do: reach out to those around you. Practice patience and kindness during these painful times. Remember to utilize the resources the Department has put in place to assist employees and loved ones in times such as these.
The DOT Connection Worklife Center can help with referrals, and if you wish, the Employee Assistance Program will provide the opportunity to speak, confidentially, with a counselor. I urge all of you to use these resources.
I also want to thank everyone in the Department for your extraordinary efforts in the face of these attacks, and for all your hard work in helping return our Nations transportation systems back to full operations. From the very first hours of this crisis, DOT employees have stepped up to plate.
Thanks to all the folks at the FAA, who first alerted the country that some commercial aircraft had veered dangerously off course on that fateful morning, and then who responded so efficiently and calmly to my order to close down Americas airspace for the first time ever.
After the immediate threat had passed, these same professionals have led the way in restoring operation of Americas civil aviation system with an array of heightened security measures in place.
I also want to let you know that, very soon, the Department, along with our brothers and sisters at the FAA, will announce its recommendations for developing concrete, long-term security measures within our nations airports and aboard aircraft themselves. Make no mistake; the Department of Transportation will act immediately to implement long-term, sustainable measures that will ensure the highest possible level of passenger safety for the American people.
Thanks also to the Coast Guard for answering the call. Within hours of the attack, the Coast Guard had cutters, small boats, and helicopters on the scene supporting disaster relief operations, and providing maritime anti-terrorism and force protection in the vicinity of New York Harbor.
Across the nation, the Coast Guard went on high alert, doing what it does best -- protecting the homeland against foreign threats, and helping those in need.
Throughout the Department, from RSPA to Motor Carriers to FTA, DOT employees have gone above and beyond in their service to our country. Over the last two weeks, America has witnessed so many acts of heroism that they have become almost commonplace. And still, the efforts put forth by all of you here stand out.
On behalf of President Bush, I extend our nations heartfelt gratitude for what you are doing. Thanks to all of your efforts, I have never felt prouder to be Secretary of Transportation than I have in the last two weeks.
I wish I could tell you that your efforts are drawing to a close, but I cannot. As I mentioned earlier, our nation has entered into a new era in the history of transportation, an era in which one of our most cherished freedoms the basic freedom of mobility has been challenged. Today, I am asking all of you, the dedicated men and women of this Department, to help ensure that all Americans know that this challenge is being met.
As the President said to the nation last Thursday night, we are a country awakened to danger, and called to defend freedom. America faces a cunning and remorseless enemy. Two weeks ago, they cruelly turned our own aircraft against us.
But, if those who brought down one of Americas proudest buildings, also believe they can bring down our faith in our transportation systems, we will emphatically prove them wrong.
As we move forward from September 11, we must increase our vigilance, and we must take new steps to move people and commerce safely and efficiently, recognizing that the nature of the threat has changed.
DOT has, as one the key elements in its Strategic Plan, the goal of ensuring the security of the transportation system for the movement of goods and people. Now more than ever, we need to make that goal a reality. In the weeks and months ahead, we need to reexamine the adequacy of our security measures as we accelerate their implementation. This is a mission for all DOT employees, bottom to top.
The transportation challenges we face in the aftermath of September 11th cut across jurisdictional and modal boundaries. This is not business as usual. In the new era of transportation, stove piping and turf guarding are out; crosscutting and collaboration are in. We can, and we will, improve communication throughout the organization, beginning today.
We can rise to the challenges facing our nation, but only if we recognize that each of us here has a solemn responsibility to help create a safer, more secure transportation system for the American people.
The mission of the DOT has never been more vital than it is today. Based on the efforts I saw put forth in the last two weeks, I know we are an agency equal to the challenge.
Again, thanks a million for all your efforts and your dedication to the DOT family. Keep up the good work.
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