Chairman Connolly's Prepared Remarks

Monday, Sept. 10, Fairfax County 9/11 Memorial Grove Garden

Prepared Remarks for 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony by Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald E. Connolly


Thank you all for joining us today as we honor the memories of those lost in the terrorist attacks here in Northern Virginia, as well as in New York City and rural Pennsylvania, six year ago tomorrow.

This is the fourth year we have gathered here in Fairfax County’s own Memorial Grove Garden to pay tribute to the heroes of 9/11 – the first responders, co-workers, family, friends and neighbors who were among the thousands we lost on that terrible day. Memorials like this have been constructed throughout our community and the country to commemorate the events of 9/11, and next year at this time, we will join with the rest of the region and our nation in welcoming the completion of the Pentagon Memorial itself. Earlier this morning, my colleagues and I authorized a $100,000 contribution from Fairfax County to the Pentagon Memorial Fund. It is one of the many ways in which we continue to pay tribute to the 184 people who perished at the Pentagon – more than three dozen of whom were from Fairfax County.

This morning we again proclaimed September to be Emergency Preparedness Month. Clearly the threat of terrorism is still very real as evidenced by recent messages from our nation’s enemies, but one of the lasting legacies of 9/11 has been the notion of being prepared for any type of emergency, whether it is a widespread event like a terrorist attack, natural disaster, or epidemic or an individualized event like a fire, car crash or power outage.

On the eve of the anniversary of 9/11, it is natural for people to question whether we are any safer or more prepared today than we were six years ago. Let me reassure our residents, those here in Fairfax County and across the region, we are in fact safer, more prepared and better equipped to deal with an emergency.

Fairfax County has made strategic investments in people, resources and time to coordinate with our regional counterparts, fortify our first responders and communicate with citizens to ensure we are as prepared as we can be for the unknown. For example, directors from more than a half dozen Fairfax County agencies currently serve on regional preparedness committees through the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. In addition, the County Executive chairs the regional Chief Administrative Officers Committee, and I am the current chairman of the Emergency Preparedness Council of the National Capital Region.

The events of 9/11 tested our abilities beyond our imagination, and a number of trying real-life experiences have helped hone our skills since then: the anthrax attacks shortly after 9/11, the sniper attacks the next year, Hurricanes Isabel and Katrina and last year’s flooding in Huntington. Successfully preparing for an emergency cannot be done on your own, nor can it be done in a vacuum. Our work with our regional partners has yielded tremendous benefits for us all, whether it is seamless communication between our first responders, joint training exercises or better management of traffic. Earlier this year, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff recognized the National Capital Region for those very efforts.

In terms of resources, we continue to strengthen the capabilities of our first responders, whether it is creating a full-time hazardous materials unit within the Fire and Rescue Department, updating the technology used by our police officers on the street or supporting our elite Urban Search and Rescue Team, which currently has members responding at the earthquake site in Peru. Even as recently as this morning, we accepted a federal grant to pre-position interoperable radios within Fairfax County for regional use in case of an emergency. And later this month, we will get our first look at how the new Public Safety Transportation Operations Center is coming along. The state-of-the-art facility is a joint venture between Fairfax County (specifically our 911 Communications Center and the Office of Emergency Management), the Virginia State Police and the Virginia Department of Transportation. Having all three of us under one roof will only enhance our cooperation on incident management and the quality of response for our citizens.

In addition to the actions we at the County are taking, I encourage every one of our residents to take the initiative during this month as we focus on preparedness to re-assess the emergency plan for their families or to create one if they have not already done so. Fairfax County is ready to assist you with advice or deliver up-to-the-minute emergency information through our Community Emergency Alert Network, which allows you to receive messages via e-mail, cell phone or pager. Later this fall we will add to our growing preparedness tool kit with the unveiling of Fairfax County’s Emergency Radio, which can be heard on 1670 AM.

This is just a snapshot of what we in the County have been doing since 9/11 to ensure our community is prepared to withstand future challenges. We hope to never relive those dark days, but we honor the memories of those lost by preparing ourselves as best we can to face what lied ahead.

Thank you and God bless.

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