Fifteen years have gone by like a flash. About 3,000 kids were left without a parent after September 11, 2001. The babies that were born that day or shortly thereafter are now sophomores in High School. The revitalization of the city's downtown, powered by $30 billion in government and private investment, includes not just the reconstruction of the World Trade Center site, but also two new malls filled with upscale retailers, thousands of new hotel rooms and dozens of eateries. There are 29 hotels in the neighborhood, compared to six before 9/11. More than 60,000 people live downtown, nearly triple the number in the year 2000. Last year, the area hosted a record 14 million visitors, according to the Alliance for Downtown New York. The 9/11 museum has drawn 6.6 million visitors since its May 2014 opening. The observatory atop One World Trade Center has drawn 3 million people in the 15 months since it opened. In comparison, the Statue of Liberty gets about 4 million visitors a year.
For blocks surrounding One World Trade, half-built towers and cranes still clutter the sky, barricades and scaffolding line the streets, and you can hear the whine and clatter of jackhammers blocks away. Construction workers in hardhats are as common as tourists. The recession hampered efforts to bring businesses back, but private sector employment at 266,000 workers is finally nearing pre-9/11 numbers. Conde Nast and Time Inc. have relocated downtown. Group M, one of the world's biggest advertising firms, will move into Three World Trade Center when it's complete. So far, three towers have been built with plans for more. A second shopping center known as Westfield, opened in August inside the Oculus, a huge white structure designed by famed the architect Santiago Calatrava. The curves of the Oculus' two ribbed wings are silhouetted by One World Trade rising behind it. Inside the Oculus, retailers range from Apple to Kate Spade to The Art of Shaving. The complex connects to Four World Trade. Below ground a massive transit center houses subways and a New Jersey PATH train station.
This to me is a statement of resolve on the part of the American people and our ability to bounce back. In previous years at 9/11 ceremonies, I’ve said that you can knock America down but you can never count us out. The new WTC complex demonstrates this ideal.
We gather each year to briefly pause and remember those lost souls because we promised to never forget and that means never forgetting. Again, we collectively keep our promise. For the families of lost loved ones, 9/11/01 was yesterday. For those of us in uniform, 9/11/01 was also yesterday, as we lost members of our extended family that day as well. We continue to remember by our daily actions, thoughts, discussion and how we go about our daily mission.
Let us remember the victims in the World Trade Center, those who flew on the planes, the military and civilian personnel who worked at the pentagon and those who perished on a field in Shanksville, PA.
The American fire service responds to a fire every 25 seconds. Let us please take a moment to remember the firefighters, along with the police officers and emergency medical workers who fall in the line of duty each and every year, and let us strive to reduce those numbers, so everyone goes home at the end of the day. As the Federal Government continues their commitment on the war on terrorism, please continue to keep our service men and women in your thoughts and prayers as they fight for our freedom here and overseas.
May God continue to bless the lost 9/11 souls, our first responders, the military, all of you, and the United States of America. Be well, be safe.