(Host) Today’s anniversary of the 9/11 attacks marked a beginning for 74 foreign born Vermonters.
At a ceremony at the statehouse, they took the oath of U.S. Citizenship.
VPR’s Susan Keese reports:
(Sessions) “And I take this obligation freely, (response) without any mental reservation (response) or purpose of evasion (response) so help me god. (response) Congratulations. You are now U.S. Citizens.”
(Keese) They came from thirty different countries: China, Thailand, Korea, Spain. Nineteen were refugees from Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Three were among the lost boys of the Sudan, children forced by war to flee their villages and families. They wandered hungry for years across the African desert in search of safety.
Abraham Malual was twelve when his long trek began. He was 26 when he came to this country in 2001. He’s now a sophomore at the University of Vermont.
(Abraham) “It was a long journey. I can’t imagine how hard it was. And now it looks like I’m settled and I’m going to be all right.”
(Keese) Baerbel Paradis is from Germany originally. She’s lived here 20 years.
(Paradis) “I decided when the war started with Iraq. My husband had to go to Kuwait. And I think that was the day decided I should become American and be like my husband and my son. Stand up with him.”
(Keese) Paradis says having the ceremony on September 11th makes it even more special.
U.S. District Judge William Sessions administered the citizens oath. Since a year after the terrorist attacks, Sessions has held citizenship ceremonies on every September 11th.
U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, who spoke at the ceremony, commended the judge’s vision.
(Leahy) “I think the judge makes it very clear by doing that that America did not close its borders on September 11 five years ago to those who would come here and make it a better country.”
(Keese) He reminded the new citizens that not only Americans died in the 2001 attacks, but 500 foreign nationals from 90 different countries.
And he said the ceremony helped turn a somber occasion into a renewal of the American promise.
Judge Sessions, concluding the ceremony, referred to U.S. citizenship as an extraordinary, almost a magical transformation.
Anna Alexandrovna Grittnere, originally from BeloRus grinned from ear to ear as she described it.
(Alexandra) “America is freedom country. I wanted to be freedom too. I wanted to vote. I’m so happy. Ha ha ha.”
(Keese) Middlebury College artist in residence Francois Clemens concluded the ceremony with a song.
(Clemmens sings) “This land was made for you and me.”
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Susan Keese.