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October 15th, 1991 — a special day in the history of American law enforcement ... indeed, a special day in the history of our nation. For it was on that day 17 years ago, that we dedicated this magnificent monument as a tribute to extraordinary service, supreme sacrifice and eternal hope.
And, on that day, President George H. W. Bush dedicated this Memorial saying, "When society asks someone to put on a badge and place it over his or her heart, we make a sacred covenant — a covenant that says: 'We as a society stand behind those who enforce the law against those who break the law.' This memorial," he said, "gives meaning to that covenant, gives meaning to these lives, gives meaning to the law and what it stands for."
Over the years since, millions of people from across the country and around the globe have visited these hallowed grounds, to pay their respects to the 18,274 American heroes whose names grace these walls-men and women who laid down their lives for the safety and protection of others. Today, we honor and remember all of those fallen heroes, as well as their families.
Last year, 181 American law enforcement officers lost their lives in the performance of duty. It was one of the highest death totals in the last two decades. This year, thankfully, the number of fatalities has decreased by about 25 percent. But, even so, that still means more than 110 Federal, state and local officers have been killed in the line of duty already this year.
This Memorial was built by caring Americans. Two young daughters of a slain West Virginia State Trooper sold their toys and sent in a $25 donation so their father would not be forgotten. An elderly woman sent us two 25-cent stamps-it was all that she could afford, but she wanted to express her support for the police officers who kept her safe. When all was said and done, hundreds of corporations and over one million citizens and law enforcement officers dug into their pockets to ensure that this Memorial was constructed. It was an amazing display of generosity and gratitude.
Thankfully, we are seeing that same level of support for another historic intiative to honor our nation's law officers-establishment of the first-ever National Law Enforcement Museum. In 2000, the United States Congress authorized our organization to design and build that Museum on Federal property right across the street from this Memorial.
We have been working on it ever since and in a few short years from now, that Museum will open its doors. When that day comes, visitors will learn the inspiring stories behind the names on these walls, and they will gain a true understanding of the vital worth of the men and women who bravely enforce the laws of our land and keep America safe from crime and terror.