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Good afternoon. Let me thank my longtime labor friend, Sonny Hall, for those warm words of introduction. It is a pleasure to join you, and the members and guests of the Transport Workers Union of America for your 21st Constitutional Convention.
Sonny and I have been friends for a very long time and more often than not, we have been on the same side of transportation issues. I want to commend him for his extraordinary leadership and commitment to a quality transportation system in America.
For nearly 70 years the TWU has been at the forefront of Americas transportation and service industries. With more than 130,000 members, TWU helps to keep our nation moving. And the American people are proud and honored to have you on our transportation team.
You represent the best of what America stands for. Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia summed it up well when he said, American labor, whenever it gathers, does so with love for its flag and country and loyalty to its government.
And that fierce love of country and loyalty to our nation was evident during the tragic moments of the September 11th attacks. Transportation workers from every mode across our country, many of them TWU members, responded heroically to the crisis before us.
The quick actions of transit employees in New York and Washington DC saved thousands of lives. In fact, not one transit operator -- or any of their passengers -- were lost as they escaped from the crumbling targets above them.
In New York, Richie Moran, a Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) train master, and other PATH employees carried out their duties with courage and valor.
Minutes after the first hijacked plane crashed into One World Trade Center, a train from Newark, New Jersey, carrying about 1,000 passengers, pulled into the station below. Moran directed the trains crew to keep everyone on board, pick up passengers in the station, and immediately depart for the Exchange Place stop in Jersey City. Those same instructions were given to a second train arriving from Hoboken and carrying more than 1,000 passengers.
Public transportation employees remained behind in the station to immediately evacuate passengers who inadvertently left the trains at the World Trade Center.
Moran then directed a third train in Jersey City to discharge its passengers and head back to the World Trade Center to evacuate any remaining travelers and transit personnel. That train departed with its precious cargo at 9:10 am 40 minutes before the first tower collapsed.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority also responded deftly to rescue passengers from harms way. Within minutes of the Pentagon attack, all exposed Metrorail trains near the Pentagon station were ordered into tunnels, where passengers would be safe from any further attacks.
Countless lives were saved because of the quick actions of transit employees and the emergency plans that were in place and working. TWU members were responsive and prepared.
In addition to these actions, hundreds of New York City transit workers, members of TWU Local 100, assisted in the rescue and recovery work at Ground Zero in the days immediately following the attack, and their work continues on the site today.
In addition to the transit lines, heroes emerged in the skies and on the tarmacs of hundreds of our nations airports. When I gave the order to bring down every plane over America safely, it was the pilots, crewmembers, air traffic controllers -- and the ground crews and ramp operations -- who worked together to bring in more than 4,500 planes -- without incident.
And when the aviation system was down, Amtrak and its employees stepped up to handle the increased ridership quickly connecting travelers to their destinations, and even assisting in the apprehension of two principle suspects in the terrorist attack.
These are just a few of the actions taken on September 11th by transportation workers to protect lives and secure property. Their work continues today.
For those efforts, and on behalf of President Bush and the American people, I offer a heartfelt thanks to you -- the members of the Transport Workers Union of America.
Ladies and gentleman, America today is a fundamentally different place from the one that existed five short weeks ago. And, in the wake of these horrific terrorist attacks, we have entered into a new era in transportation, an era in which one of our most cherished freedoms the freedom of mobility has been challenged.
But, make no mistake -- we will meet that challenge. It will require all of us to take a fresh and honest look at the business we are in. We must re-think the basic approach with which we provide for the safety and security of everyone traveling on Americas transportation systems.
Let me be clear. As President Bush has said, we are in a war. It is a type of war that we have not faced before. The frontline of this war includes the very transportation systems you represent here today.
The strategy to win this war requires us to preserve as much normalcy as we can, while at the same time, work unceasingly to protect our transportation systems from terrorist attacks.
In order to ensure an integrated, multi-modal response to security concerns, I have created the National Infrastructure Security Committee (NISC) at the Department of Transportation. NISCs key mission is to execute pre-emptive, protective, preventive, and recovery efforts for crucial elements of our nations transportation system.
We are assessing our entire transportation network and identifying any gaps between current and desired levels of protection for critical assets and systems. While we continue our assessment, we are aggressively implementing new security measures for all modes of transportation.
The Federal Transit Administration is taking immediate steps to help keep our communities safe and moving by delivering guidance kits to help all transit agencies perform new assessments of security plans. We are also working to provide on-site experts to prevent and respond to attacks on public transportation systems.
In addition to the steps weve already taken to improve the safety and security of our nations aviation system, we are working with the Congress to implement a broad set of airport and aircraft security measures. We have partnered with the Governors of the 50 States to augment existing security services with the National Guard, we are expanding the Federal Air Marshal program and seeking congressional approval to make this expansion permanent, and we are working to establish a $500 million fund to finance aircraft modification to protect access to the cockpit.
Amtrak is heightening security at its passenger rail facilities. And our freight railroads are developing security plans to secure cargo and facilities and have activated a full-time crisis center. Movement of hazardous cargo near stadiums, and other locations that draw large crowds, has been restricted.
And in our nations coastal waters and inland waterways, the United States Coast Guard is on high alert, managing traffic in our nations ports, boarding and inspecting vessels, and escorting and protecting ships carrying hazardous cargos underway.
These efforts are a critical part of the Coast Guards expanded Homeland Security role.
We are committed to ensuring the safety and security of all our nations transportation systems to protect the outstanding working men and women who operate and service them, and the passengers who rely on them.
As we move forward from September 11th, we must increase our vigilance, and we must take new steps to move people and goods safely and efficiently, recognizing that the nature of the threats has changed. Travelers will see increased security measures at our airports, train stations, and other key sites. There will be higher levels of surveillance and more stringent searches.
The traveling public may experience some inconveneincesinconveniences, but we must do what is prudent in order to protect our citizens and transport workers with safety and security as our highest priorities.
The public, however, must also understand the need for patience, and that patience is the new form of patriotism.
We must also work diligently to ensure that our economy remains strong. That is why the President and the Congress moved quickly to help to stabilize the airline industry, providing $5 billion in grants and $10 billion in guaranteed loans. This will help ensure that the 728,000 employees of U.S. air carriers can return to work and keep their jobs.
My friends, our President has urged us to get back to the business of America, and we are all working to that end. Sadly, I cannot tell you that we can simply return to normal. All of us must adjust to the fact that we have entered an entirely new era of transportation. We must seek to return to what I call, a new normalcy.
This is not business as usual. I know that we can rise to the transportation challenges facing our nation, but only if we recognize that each of us has a vested interest in identifying breaches in transportation security and working to remedy them.
We at the Department of Transportation are committed to working with you partnering with you to devise workable transportation solutions that continue to connect the American people to a vibrant economy and an improved quality of life.
Your industry our transportation industry is the one of the engines that drives this economy. We will not allow it to be used as an engine of destruction.
I am confident that with the dedication, commitment, and professionalism of the Transport Workers Union of America, and the entire transportation community, we have the skills and the vision that America needs to restore confidence in our nations transportation system. And we are getting back on track.
It is the American spirit that built this system -- it is the American transportation worker who operates this transportation system.
And, it is the American people who will prevail.
Thank you very much, and God bless America.
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