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Himes Remembers Horrors, Lessons of Sept. 11

U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District, sent this letter in honor of the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – Like so many others in our area, I struggled Sunday with memories that are not just horrific but personal. I arrived in lower Manhattan on Sept. 11 10 years ago and followed the gazes upward through crisp fall air. A building on fire. Walking north, the second tower came into view, and my heart went cold. This was a turning point for all of us. We had been attacked for the very things we value most. Our openness and our trust had made us vulnerable.

There was fear and confusion, and even in those early hours, failure to comprehend the horror of what was happening around us. When the buildings fell, all went dark. How does a nation of fathers and mothers explain that to their children? Who picks up a car that has sat for weeks at a train station? Why would God allow this to be visited on the innocent?

We still struggle with those questions, and in communities around New York, we still see the wounds to the friends and families of those lost. We also struggle with more abstract issues. Is there a tradeoff between the demands of security and our inalienable freedom? What is our response to chaos and dictatorship abroad?

But amidst the dust and fear, I remember something else. Hundreds of people standing outside of hospitals to donate blood. Dust-covered strangers embracing. The captains of tugboats and merchant vessels in the harbor responded to the Coast Guard call to assist the evacuation. Firefighters, construction crews, steamfitters and welders drove hundreds of miles to work on that gothic pile, searching for survivors and clearing away rubble. I sensed an almost primal instinct to help, to reach out and comfort, to show our profound difference from those who had visited such horror upon us.

In our darkest hour, millions of Americans brought light and support to those in need. That day, and for some time afterward, we were family. Our trivial concerns, the celebrity gossip, the endless media chatter faded to black as we remembered that we are at our best when we are drawn together in common purpose, when we are reminded that yes, we are our brother's keeper.

Ten years ago, nearly 3,000 innocent people perished on Sept. 11. Many of us in Southwestern Connecticut lost loved ones, neighbors and friends. Sunday, we remembered them. Perhaps we honor them best by remembering the spirit of unity that arose from the ashes and reminded us of our common humanity.

Most sincerely,

Jim

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