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Remarks to HUD employees
following the September 11th Terrorist Attacks

Remarks prepared for delivery by
Secretary Mel Martinez

Washington, DC
Thursday, September 13, 2001

Good afternoon.

I had planned to meet with all of you this week and talk about our plans for the future. I hope you will understand if I save that conversation for another time.

My thoughts are with the entire HUD family today. Many of you lost friends and family in Tuesday's terrorist attacks in New York and in Washington. Most of the rest of us lost something, too� a sense of security, and the peace of mind that comes from believing that events as horrific as these cannot happen so close to home.

It is impossible to watch television news coverage of the events this week and not feel a deep sense of sorrow for the families of what are certainly thousands of victims. I know that you are keeping them in your prayers. Please say a prayer as well for the rescue workers who have taken on the task of sorting through millions of tons of rubble. They are all heroes, and we hold a special place in our hearts for the many that lost their lives.

HUD has offices in three locations within New York City. The majority of HUD employees there have been accounted for. In fact, in the building that was the closest to the World Trade Center, every employee has been located and is safe. As you have seen from the news reports, the scene surrounding what was once the World Trade Center is now one of great destruction, and it will be some time before every person is accounted for.

We are working around the clock to move our closed offices to another location. The field offices in Newark and Philadelphia have been helping to coordinate these efforts, and I want to thank you for your hard work. Two of our people from here at headquarters have been sent to New York City to offer assistance.

I am aware of the concerns that our employees have brought forward this week regarding security at headquarters. I share your concerns - nothing is more important to me than the safety of our workers in every HUD office. Rest assured that we are doing everything we can to ensure your security on the job. This includes appointing a security task force, chaired by the Deputy Secretary, that will review security procedures. The bottom line is that security will be stepped up. And that will be done at once.

We are also reassessing our communication capabilities. When I need to communicate directly with managers and employees, a working system must be in place. This includes more effective use of the web - both our in-house system and the Internet as a whole - so that employees have rapid access to important information.

I want to thank every HUD employee here in Washington and in our field offices around the country for putting aside your fear and returning to your workplaces yesterday and today. The United States does not bow to terrorists, and there is no more pointed sign of that than our government back at work, doing the business of the people and standing at the side of the Americans who depend on us.

Three HUD employees deserve special recognition. Mary Ann Wilson, my representative in New York City, has performed exceptionally this week under what are the most trying circumstances imaginable. Here in Washington, Carole Jefferson, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Administration, and Pam Patenaude, Assistant Deputy Secretary for Field Policy and Management, have served their fellow employees with great dedication. You have my thanks.

This week, President Bush has offered this nation an equal measure of unbending moral leadership and deep personal compassion, and I have never been more proud to serve him. As he said, the United States considers these attacks to be acts of war, not merely acts of terror. Our response will be harsh and unyielding against both the cowards who carried out these despicable actions and any state or country that provides safe haven to those responsible. The federal government is undertaking an aggressive investigation, and we are confident that we will be able to put a face on this enemy.

The President is forging an international alliance to fight terrorism. As he said today, we will lead the world to victory against this enemy.

Our main concerns today, of course, are for the victims and for our national security. The President has asked Congress for emergency spending authority that will allow us to dedicate every available resource to rescuing victims, helping the people of New York City and Washington recover, and protecting our national security. Tuesday's events touch virtually every Cabinet-level agency, and we are working with each other to ensure a coordinated response.

HUD is in the business of serving our fellow citizens at a time in their lives when they most need someone's help. Certainly this includes times of national tragedy. The President knows that the men and women of HUD are available to help in any way that we can� because helping people is what we do here.

Our program offices have worked quickly to identify areas in which HUD can offer assistance. As a top priority, we are helping families who perhaps lost a breadwinner and are worried they may also lose their homes. These families need to know that America's housing industry stands behind them.

Today, I will release a letter directing lenders to provide relief to borrowers with FHA-insured mortgages. These borrowers include individuals who were: (1) passengers aboard the four hijacked planes; (2) employed in or near the World Trade Center; (3) employed in the Pentagon, and; (4) those whose financial viability was affected by the events of Tuesday, September 11.

We are imposing a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures - or even the threat of foreclosure - for these families. In a time of personal crisis, the last thing a family should have to face is the threat of losing their home. Our action today will give them time to make all the necessary financial arrangements.

I am calling upon the rest of the lending industry to provide an equal measure of relief to their non-FHA insured borrowers. This is a time for unity, and I am confident that America's families can count on the support of the housing industry.

HUD has additional funds that we can dedicate to emergency assistance� especially after the President declares a disaster. And true to our "Urban Development" mandate, this department will be an active partner with other federal agencies in rebuilding and restoring the City of New York.

Our employees have also been asking what they can do, on a more personal level, to help at this time. I understand that many of you lined up to give blood. Thanks to the generosity of Americans from coast to coast, many of this nation's blood banks are now fully stocked, although the Red Cross is soliciting additional donors.

Other charitable relief organizations are accepting cash donations. The Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund has set up a World Trade Center/Pentagon Fund to assist federal families affected by the attacks. The e-mail I sent to all employees yesterday includes addresses and telephone numbers. If your heart moves you to give, I wanted to make sure you had this information.

We are providing our 9,000 employees with counseling services through HUD's Employee Assistance Program. I urge you to contact our counselors through the toll-free number we have set up. They are here to help.

Tragedies like those we have lived through this week will change our lives and our daily routine, but we must not allow them to change what it means to be a citizen of this great nation.

Here is the reality:

There is a hole in the side of the Pentagon this afternoon, but the Pentagon stands. There are entire blocks of devastation in lower Manhattan, but New York stands as well. America stands today, and stands united. As the President said Tuesday night, "Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America."

This is not the first time we have been tested as a nation, and it will not be the last. The United States is a strong beacon that has guided many to freedom, yet the brilliance of our light makes us a target as well. Of course we face risks; no one's safety is assured when a civilized society embraces freedom and democracy as passionately as we have. But the risks pale in comparison to the tremendous riches that await us.

It will take far more than cowardly, desperate acts of terrorism to bring the United States to its knees. We are the strongest nation on this earth, not just because of the power of our military or our economic might, but because of the resolve of our people.

I realized early on in my service here that we are a family at HUD� and just like a family, we celebrate the good times together and comfort each other when times are tough. I have seen you at your best in the past 48 hours and I have no doubt that we will continue to uphold the very best tradition of public service in the days and weeks ahead. That is what our President, and the American people, are counting on us to do.

May God watch over the victims of this tragedy and their families, may He bless the President and this Administration, and may He stand with us all.

Content Archived: March 12, 2010

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