Vermonters observe anniversary of attacks

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(Host) Vermonters marked the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks by taking part in a variety of events today. The observances included readings, prayers, reflections and even a naturalization ceremony for new citizens.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Sound of bells chiming.)
(Zind) From small vigils to large ceremonies, activities around Vermont mirrored the somber observances around the nation. The tolling of bells. The reading of the names of those who died. A few words spoken. Long moments of silence.

In Burlington on a dark, blustery morning a formation of blue uniformed men and women followed a bagpiper and a rider-less horse down Church Street.

(Sound of bagpipes and color guard procession.)

(Zind) At a brief service at Burlington’s Unitarian Church, someone stood and suggested the group sing Amazing Grace. (Sound of singing Amazing Grace followed by bagpipes.)

At the Vermont State Police Academy in Pittsford, a bagpiper played in the rain as members of police and fire departments from around the state people raised the flag, then slowly lowered it to half mast.

September 11 was remembered at the tiny Union Christian Church in Plymouth Notch where a small gathering listened to excerpts from the writings of Calvin Coolidge and a poem from Grace Coolidge. It was written to comfort those who, like her, had lost a child.

In chapels, churches and schools, on streets and sidewalks of towns across the state, Vermonters expressed themselves.

“We gather here this morning to give dignity to the dead and to express our commitment to the living to build a world of justice and peace where people of all creeds and cultures can co-exist as members of the greater human family.”

“We will never forget the events of September 11. Let them always serve as a reminder of who we are and what we stand for.”

“I’m grieving the loss of our innocence today. That for once our land has experienced something horrific that so many other people have experienced. I’m not happy to say that now we have joined the rest of the world and know what real grief and terror and fear is like.”

“We honor the firefighters and the police fighters who are peacekeepers in their way and we honor all those other people who died in those terrible events by saying that we commit ourselves to working toward peace.”

“We have to go on with our everyday business and our everyday work despite this kind of suffering that happens in the world. I think it reminds us of our responsibilities to make everything we do matter.”

(Zind) Federal Judge William Sessions said he chose to commemorate September 11 by holding a naturalization ceremony at the Federal Courthouse in Burlington. Sessions said the event highlights the diversity of the American people and the values the nation is founded upon.

(Sessions) “You’re accepting a country which safeguards the right of some which would even put in danger its very institutions. You must remain firm in your convictions and not falter when the right of freedom is in danger. The right to vote is at risk each time you fail to vote. The right of free speech is threatened every time you do not speak your convictions.”

(Zind) Forty-two new Americans took the oath of citizenship today. (Sound of clerk reading the names of 42 naturalized citizens.)

At a number of observances Vermonters read a list of the names of those who died a year ago. People said that hearing the names gave them a sense of the human dimensions of the tragedy. In Burlington twenty or so people stood on the steps of city hall, each simultaneously reading a section of the list of the dead. (Sound of names being read.)

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

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