Members of Law Enforcement. Governor Paterson. Senator Smith. Mayor Jennings. County Executive Breslin. Members of the Clergy. Fellow Legislators. Ladies and Gentlemen.
To the families, friends and colleagues of the law enforcement officers we honor here this afternoon, I humbly extend to you the condolences of each and every member of the New York State Assembly, as well as our eternal gratitude and respect.
We add our voices to those of the good citizens of our state in giving thanks to the Creator for blessing us with heroes of such immense courage and such an unflinching sense of duty.
To the loved ones and the colleagues of the eleven officers who succumbed to cancer and other illness brought on by their exposure to World Trade Center toxins, I offer you my personal and heartfelt sympathy.
I live not far from the World Trade Center. I saw the jet that struck the South tower. I felt the ground shake. I inhaled the toxic smoke. I know how nobly and heroically the NYPD - and all of the City's first responders - carried out their duties on that tragic September day.
That those of you who were fortunate enough not to lose a loved one on September 11th were forced to watch them suffer and weaken over the years because of their exposure, is a subject I will not expound upon here.
There are, however, two things I am compelled to say.
First, the commitment and sacrifice of your loved ones will likely save countless first responders from a similar fate. That is a fact.
Second, these deceased officers - New York's Finest - deserved better from their government.
When this ceremony is completed and we return to our offices and our homes, this wall will keep its solemn and solitary vigil.
Hundreds will pass by never knowing it is here.
There are times when I wish we could bring this monument to every community and to every school so that our young might comprehend in their minds and in their hearts that the treasures we take for granted - peace, justice, freedom and Democracy - often require much more than the force of law.
Sometimes a sacrifice is required; the surrender of a life - a father, a mother, a brother, a sister, a son, a daughter, a friend, a community leader, a beacon of faith and hope.
One thousand, two hundred and eighty-two ultimate sacrifices are on this wall right now.
If one child - just one - could see beyond the polished surface to the hard truth that lies within perhaps one less bad decision will be made and one less name will be carved into this wall.
When I look at this monument, my impression is that it says more about the nature of the people who accept the duty of enforcing the law than it does about the profession.
Law enforcement is a calling to men and women of valor.
It is a calling to citizens who are compelled to make right that which is wrong, who are compelled to confront injustice and disaster and would do so regardless of their occupation, because that is what heroes do.
I believe their spirits are with us today and that they live on in us and in our state. I know that even now, as we stand here honoring the lives and the sacrifice of our fallen heroes, somewhere in our state a voice is saying, "Mom, Dad, I'm going to be a police officer when I grow up."
It is up to us, to all New Yorkers, to make our state a place that is worthy of such heroes. Let that always be our mission.
To the families of the officers we honor today, I thank you for sharing their lives with us.
May G-d bless you and may G-d guide and protect our valiant law-enforcement officers wherever they are serving.