Flanagan returns to Senate after accident

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(Host) There was an emotional homecoming at the Statehouse on Friday. Vermont State Senator Edward Flanagan returned for the first time since he was seriously injured in an automobile accident nearly six months ago.

VPR’s Steve Zind has more.

(Sound of lawmakers’ applause for Flanagan.)

(Zind) He has been absent for the entire second half of the biennium but Friday morning, a frail looking but smiling Flanagan walked slowly into Senate chamber to the sustained applause of his colleagues. Flanagan stood at his seat as he waited for the applause to subside.

(Flanagan) “Mr. President, it’s good to be back! You’re looking at somebody who’s grateful to be alive, recovering and with all of you.”

(Zind) Last November Flanagan’s car went off the Interstate in Richmond. He spent 18 hours unconscious as temperatures dipped to near freezing. His overturned car was finally spotted by a young passenger in a passing vehicle.

Flanagan says he remembers nothing about the accident or the following six weeks. He’s still undergoing therapy but he says he wants to return to public service. He gave no indication whether he’ll run for re-election to his Senate seat this fall.

Flanagan’s appearance came during the final days of the session as the legislators and the governor try to hammer out a compromise on health care. Flanagan says his experience underscores to him the importance of providing health care coverage to all Vermonters.

(Flanagan) “I can’t imagine where I’d be without the sustained, intensive rehab therapy that my insurance made possible. I can’t imagine how working Vermont families could stay afloat after an uninsured wage earner sustains a serious injury or illness. I salute the efforts of this body to meet this challenge.”

(Zind) Despite his difficulties, Flanagan’s sense of humor remains intact. When he was presented with a photo of himself as a college student he joked that he looked dorky.

After his Senate appearance, Flanagan briefly visited the House chamber and then continued through the State House greeting well-wishers as he went.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind in Montpelier.

Hear Senator Flanagan’s speech

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