Reflections on September 11

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(Host) In a special commentary observing the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks, Governor Howard Dean reflects on how the evens of that day touched all Vermonters.

(Dean) Erika Haub and her new husband spent their honeymoon in Vermont in 1997. Four years later, on September 11, Erika became a widow. Her husband Michael, a firefighter in midtown Manhattan, died trying to save those trapped in the Twin Towers. Vermont tree farmers sent Erika Haub and fire stations throughout New York City Christmas trees to ease the grief during that sad holiday.

Vermonters joined a nation in donating time, money and even blood to help our neighbors recover from that tragic attack. Within 48 hours, two Vermont State Police Troopers were helping remove the body of a fire fighter from the rubble at Ground Zero. Vermont Air National Guard jets patrolled the skies over New York City. And Vermont children raised money to help the victims’ families.

We learned a lot that day … lessons that will continue to shape the future of our state and the entire nation. We discovered that our spirit wasn’t easily broken. We watched as planes crashed and buildings burned. We prayed for the victims and their families. And we joined a nation in finding new strength and patriotism. We’ll never lose that commitment to our country.

We recognized that the U.S. could not afford to isolate itself from the world family. We in Vermont and the nation at large are linked to global economic, political and trade networks that extend to every area on earth.

And we realized that no matter what our religion, our ethnic background, our gender, our sexual orientation, or race – we are all one family. The heroes of that day came in all shapes, sizes and colors. They spoke different languages and worshiped in different churches. And on September 11, we lived together as a family and we died together as a family.

I hope we never lose that newfound understanding and commitment to tolerance and equality. My life changed on September 11. I knew people who lost their lives on that day, and I began to wonder about the security of my family, and my state and my country.

But like most Americans, I gained much more than I lost on that day. I realized that the American strengths and values that terrorists hate cannot be destroyed with planes or weapons – and that we must cherish and protect our ideals.

I realized that I have neighbors a block away, a state away, a nation away and a world away. And I realized that we must all give back just as Vermonters gave Christmas trees, money and blood.

Out of the tragedy of September 11 came the ultimate gift to our nation: Hope.

Howard Dean is the governor of Vermont.

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