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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

World Trade Center Region 2 Awards, Jersey City, New Jersey

07/03/2002
Remarks of Governor Christine Todd Whitman

Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

at the

World Trade Center Region 2 Awards Ceremony

Jersey City, New Jersey

July 3, 2002


Thank you Jane (Kenny) for that introduction. Jane and I have known each other a long time and I= m glad to have her leadership with us at the EPA.

I also want to say a special word of thanks to the New York Fire Department for your moving performances. You are an inspiration to all of us.

It = s an honor to be here today and a privilege to recognize the contributions all of you have made during September 11 and the aftermath of the recovery.

It = s hard to put into words the tragedy of September 11. The unthinkable, the unimaginable - in an instant - became all too real. As Americans we had become used to feeling invincible. I have heard before that Europeans can often pick out Americans traveling abroad by the way we walk. Americans walk without fear.

September 11 put a check in our step. Many of us suddenly felt vulnerable and scared. But, we are Americans. We are the country that stormed the beaches of Normandy, put a man on the moon, and took the hill at Iwo Jima. We are the country that 226 years ago, tomorrow, rose up against tyranny, and with little more than our hardened resolve, declared our independence. That resolve and strength has been upheld by you.

Quick thinking helped assure the safe evacuation of Region 2 offices at 290 Broadway, a short distance from the World Trade Center. And so, even in the midst of so much shock and confusion, you never lost sight of the job you had to do. Literally within minutes after the first attack on the World Trade Center, EPA employees were on the scene.

You activated our emergency response efforts in order to monitor the environmental conditions at Ground Zero and surrounding areas. Laboratory personnel worked overnight to provide critical information about the type of contaminants that had been released into the environment. And, by the very next day, you made sure that regional operations could continue. Your quick response helped safeguard the health of thousands of rescue workers and civilians.

The environmental tests that were conducted the first day were the beginning in a process of monitoring environmental conditions at Ground Zero B a process that continues to this day. Making sure that the public has access to the results of these tests is an important responsibility that you have addressed since day one. You have made sure that the public is informed about the safety of Lower Manhattan and you continue to assist families and individuals returning to their homes and offices who have questions about the dust and debris that they are finding.

For all you have done over the past 295 days, each and every one of you has earned the respect of your peers and the gratitude of a nation.

Yet, for all we have done, our job has, in many ways, only just begun. The EPA plays an integral part in protecting our homeland security with responsibilities that range from responding to a chemical or biological attack to protecting our water supply. I have confidence that you will face these new challenges with the determination and strength that you have exemplified over the past months.

When you took your oath of office, you never envisioned a tragedy like that of September 11. It= s a testament to the dedication of each of you that you have gone above and beyond the call of duty. Even in the face of horrible tragedy, you have fulfilled your mission to safeguard the public health and environment, and you continue to help our country face new threats with conviction and courage. It was your job and you= ve done it well.

In a few moments, you will receive a medallion in remembrance of all your work and the faithfulness and excellence with which you have served. It is with deepest appreciation and respect for your selfless actions and service to this agency and our country that I present this award.

Here at Liberty State Park, we stand in the shadow of all that we have lost, but being here with you today I am reminded of what we have gained.

Now, when I think of September 11, it = s with a sense of pride that America as a nation came together to help those who lost everything. Pride that we have shown the terrorists the heart of our nation is not our tall buildings or our strong economy, but the American people. Pride that we have shown them the depth of their miscalculation. When hit from behind America does not crumble, she rallies and rises to meet any challenge, any threat, and any enemy.

Thank you.