Speech by Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the commemoration of the attack on the Twin Towers, Kloosterkerk, The Hague, 11 September 2011
Ambassador Levin, Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
On Tuesday 11 September 2001, at about five to nine in the morning, Ingeborg Lariby called her parents from her office on the 93rd floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center. She told them that a plane had crashed into the North Tower. But ‘I’m OK,’ she added. That phone call was the last time Ingeborg spoke to her parents. A few minutes later the second plane hit the South Tower.
We all still remember where we were when we saw those horrifying images. At first there was a feeling of irrational hope, as if we were watching something that wasn’t really happening. But all too soon we faced the harsh reality, the plumes of smoke over Manhattan, the wailing of the sirens, the panic in the city streets, and finally the apocalyptic sight of the Twin Towers collapsing. The whole world was watching.
Ingeborg Lariby was only 42 when she died. Born in New York, of Dutch parents, she felt at home all over the world. ‘Native of the Netherlands, citizen of everywhere’ was how the New York Times described her. After years of travel, she had made Manhattan her home. That was where she achieved her professional ambitions. That was the base from which she stayed in touch with friends all over the world. That was where she enjoyed everything life and New York had to offer, which was a great deal.
Today, ten years later, we remember Ingeborg Lariby and all the other people who were taken from us that day.
Today we think back to that dark day when the unthinkable happened, when almost 3,000 people from more than 90 countries lost their lives in a series of cowardly terrorist attacks.
And today, with all our heart, we reach out again to the families and friends of the victims. As we did ten years ago, when we mourned with those who lost someone they loved at Ground Zero, in the Pentagon or in rural Pennsylvania. Because 9/11 was not only an attack on New York and on the United States. It struck at the heart of the entire world.
For me personally, New York feels like a second home. I have felt this way ever since I first visited the city, in 1989. New York immediately won my heart − got under my skin even. I can’t say exactly why; there’s no one reason. It’s the combination of dynamism and creativity that gives the city such exceptional energy. It’s all the different nationalities that make New York the capital of the world. But perhaps, more than anything, it’s the almost tangible tradition of openness and individual freedom, which you feel each time you arrive there. That still impresses me every time I visit.
But the city never made a deeper impression on me, the New Yorkers never impressed me more, than in the autumn of 2001, a few weeks after 9/11. I was in New York on business and I went to the neighbourhood around Ground Zero.There were still notes and photos hanging everywhere, appealing to people to get in touch. I remember it as if it were yesterday: that incredible sense of unity that held the city together in those weeks. I remember the enormous heaps of rubble where the World Trade Center had stood. I remember the resilience of the people, who despite the pain and despite the grief had already found the courage to look to the future. And what I remember most was the determination of everyone I spoke to, that the terrorists would never be allowed to win.
The Netherlands shared that determination from day one, because the democratic values that we share must never be surrendered to the forces of blind hate and fundamentalism. This is the reason the United States and the Netherlands, together with other countries, continue in our efforts to safeguard peace and security. To combat terrorism, and to promote the freedom and democratic rights of people worldwide. As we have done since 9/11, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and recently in Libya. It’s true, we often face extremely difficult challenges and instant success is rare. And the harsh reality is that terrorism was not defeated immediately after 9/11, as later attacks on Bali, London and Madrid have shown. But we are gaining ground, step by step. Because in the end, tyranny and terrorist violence cannot triumph over people resolved to shape their own destiny.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We are all ‘citizens of everywhere’. We learned that on 9/11. And we are reminded of it forcefully on an anniversary like today. So it is good, and necessary, for us to continue remembering the victims of 9/11. They deserve that − as individuals. And because they remind us that freedom and democracy demand constant vigilance. It is up to us to honour their memory. And staying vigilant is the best possible way to do it. So that something positive can come from the terrible events of that day: for future generations around the world.