Congress meets in New York City

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(Host) All three members of Vermont’s congressional delegation traveled to New York City on Friday to attend a joint meeting of Congress at Federal Hall and to tour the site of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Hundreds of members of Congress traveled by train from Washington to New York City to hold a special commemorative session in the historic Federal Hall. The last time Congress met in New York was in 1790 when the city was the first capital of the country.

Security was extremely tight as senators and House members rode in a motorcade from Penn Station to the federal building. After holding the session, the group laid a wreath at Ground Zero – the site of the terrorist attacks. Senator Patrick Leahy says he senses a feeling of recovery in the country a year after the attacks:

(Leahy) “As we approach September 11, all the fears and concerns of last September 11 tend to come back. So I think we’re still having a hard time finding our footing. But the fact that the Congress is meeting in New York City for the first time in over 200 years is an example that our country is united and I think that’s a very good example. But I think it’s better if we realize while we’ll face threats in the future – just as many other countries do – we’re still a good, great, strong nation as we were before.”

(Kinzel) Senator James Jeffords’ trip to Ground Zero marked the third time he has visited the site. His first trip was several days after the terrorist attacks. Jeffords says going back to the site brings out a lot of emotions:

(Jeffords) “It certainly does knowing what it looked like and seeing the gaping land there with nothing on it. It makes you shudder to think what it was like coming down and of course most of us saw it coming down on television anyway.”

(Kinzel) Congressman Bernie Sanders says the country needs to continue to wage an aggressive effort to fight terrorism, but Sanders doesn’t want key constitutional rights for all Americans to be sacrificed in the war on terrorism:

(Sanders) “And that we understand that our constitution is a strong document, is an incredibly good document, that we don’t toss that constitution in the garbage can in the process of fighting terrorism. So I think we can do both: fight terrorism, pay attention to the Constitution of the United States and address the very serious problems facing millions and millions of people in the middle class in this country.”

(Kinzel) Congressional leaders said it was very important for Congress to go to New York City to show respect and support for a city that lost more than 2,800 people in the terrorist attacks.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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