On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was preparing for a media conference in the offices of the Australian Embassy in Washington, when the terrible news of the first attack on the World Trade Center filtered through. Initially I thought it was a terrible accident, however events moved at pace and, with the attack on tower two and the subsequent explosion at the Pentagon, it became apparent that America was under attack, and by a quirk of fate the leader of one of the US's staunchest allies was in the midst of it.
I was scheduled to speak at a joint sitting of the US Congress the next day, an opportunity that could not go ahead. I instead went to Congress to express Australia's support, and my entourage was the only party allowed into the chamber. The emotion of the moment and shared grief left an indelible mark upon my consciousness, for the September 11 attack was not just on America, but on all things that our great freedom-loving societies stand for, as subsequent attacks have shown.
The US-Australian alliance has transcended the test of time. We stood side by side in all the major conflicts of the 20th century, endured depressions and the tribulation of worldwide natural disasters, and together we faced and defeated the scourges of totalitarian ideologies of the 20th century. I knew at that moment that together again we would have to face an even more invidious challenge, that of religious extremism in the 21st century.
The Los Angeles to New York 2010 run is a practical reflection of the values and the aspirations that two great freedom-loving societies enjoy. The run rejects the notions of exclusion, of hatred and above all of extreme ideologies. The run rather embraces the enlightenment of life, its liberties and freedom's and it rejoices in the goodness that is the essence of the human race. But ultimately it honours the brave men and women of the emergency services who sacrificed their futures on that fateful day to ensure that others could live: the very embodiment of those values.
I am honoured to be the Patron of this run and to support the endeavours and exertions of committed firefighters from Australia and the US who have undertaken it, to ensure that the sacrifice and suffering of that fateful day will not fade into the history books.”
Former Australian Prime Minister John Winston Howard
Arrival September 11 2010
See the official Tour of Duty Website for the whole story.