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Boucher: Remember Our Fallen Citizens

State Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, wrote this after the death of terror leader Osama bin Laden. Her district includes parts of New Canaan, Wilton, Westport and Weston.

In the mist this jubilant time for America, a time we celebrate the heroic achievement of our defenders, we also recognize that the world is not always what we would like it to be, that it can be a tough and ugly place. For many of my constituents, friends, and family, it is a sobering and bittersweet time of remembrance.

I remember the dust I saw on the buildings surrounding the fallen twin towers that was composed of the only remains of the five men from my town who perished. I recall the frantic call by the parents of a young woman who hid under her desk on the 94th floor of one of the towers only to run for her life, finally reaching the ground floor and running through the streets hysterical and bleeding until someone pulled her into their apartment to call home. I’m also deeply saddened recalling the horror that the young man who grew up next door to me went through that day. He had reoccurring nightmares of debris and remains falling on top of him. There were injured people as he neared the front door of one of the towers – not knowing what was happening, he then turned and ran for his life. He will never be the same.

Every time I go to my church, I walk by a stone at the entrance with the names of five dads, who left behind ELEVEN CHILDREN when they were killed Sept. 11, 2001. It is a stark and constant reminder of that day.

An email I received Sept. 12, 2001, from a business colleague, Kathy, who works on the West Coast read: You are at the office kind of late, isn’t it 7 p.m. in CT? Are you all feeling a little vulnerable on the East Coast? I live near a Trident Submarine and Missile base, so if things get more serious… well…let’s not speculate. We had a special Mass at noon in our chapel on campus; we prayed for peace and wisdom for our leaders to make the right decision. That’s all we can do now. Kathy

I responded; Thank you Kathy. You are so very right. We are all feeling enormous sadness as more and more of our neighbors and friends are pronounced dead, or missing. They are setting up a staging area in Connecticut for the many bodies they expect to recover. We all know someone and all three of my children are in Washington, D.C. One works three blocks from the White House and lives two blocks from the State Department. Another saw the explosion at the Pentagon, watched it burn from the roof of his dorm at Georgetown University and cried. The other works in and out of those government buildings all day long. There was a time yesterday that I became desperate but have talked to them at length now. We are creating a memorial service for the entire community soon for we are so affected; many people from here work in New York, and vast numbers of them in the financial centers.

Please say a prayer for us all. But remember that we are a resilient, amazing country and we will rise above this, making ourselves stronger and wiser than before. As in families that confront tragedy, we will unify and show the world what makes us special. Best to you, and your family, Toni

This is an excerpt of a letter my son wrote for his college newspaper published one week after 9/11. I had Tuesday morning timed perfectly. Glancing at the blurry alarm clock, I had just enough time to roll from my bed to the shower to class. 9:48 a.m. Perfect.

The bathroom: Wha . . .  ? Did someone run into our door again? I hope Matt didn't eat the last Pop-Tart. Why’s everyone running around out there? Oh -----, its 10:03 … better grab the food and go. I live in Village an on Prospect Street. On a clear day, you can see for miles across the Potomac. I'd just locked the door when two neighbors ran by.

“…and you can see it from the roof!” “When did they bomb it?” “It wasn't a bomb, a plane crashed into the Pentagon” WHAT?! Their voices vanished up the steps leading to the rooftop. I looked up, and saw a hundred fingers of gray smoke curling toward the morning sun. The Pop-Tart shattered on the sidewalk.

The rooftop was a scene of sedate chaos. America's fortress was belching smoke that seemed to block out Rosslyn. Inside apartments, televisions blared. People cursed their cell phones. The South Tower crumbled. A girl shouted, to no one in particular, “I'M NOT GOING OUTSIDE! I DON'T WANNA GET BOMBED!” And I had no idea where my father was. It would be five hours before I spoke to him. On that Tuesday, we were speechless.

We lived in an age of irony. We came of age free from the fear of annihilation. War was a production of CNN in a land far, far away. We saw on the screens the heroic and tragic exploits of our parents and grandparents. The screen made them giants, and we felt small. We lived in the peace they had won, and our time had produced … what? The X Games? Napster? It seemed as if history would forget our time of scandals and surplus. So we built a wall of irony to reject the world. We reveled in "The Daily Show," read Maxim and found jokes for the world’s misfortunes.

On that Tuesday, there were no jokes. The wall of irony has been ripped down. History had found us. There we are at war with an enemy we can’t see, can’t find and can’t bomb from a thousand miles away.

It’s overwhelming. No one knows where this will go from here. Our grandparents never foresaw a four-year war, the bloodiest in history, which would culminate in 40 years of nuclear stalemate. How could our parents have known that the Kennedy assassination would lead to a war that would rip the country apart? The repercussions from this attack could last two years or two decades. It will ask more from us, as a generation, than we ever thought we could give. We have to defend ideals in a shadow war, ideals which have until now been a sarcastic joke given only lip service. Columnists and pundits from past generations call us soft, weak and spoiled. They say we grew up in prosperity and lack the will to lead. I say courage knows no economic background. History, as it did to our grandparents and parents, demands that we stand up and face it.

We can. And we will. Over time memories will diminish and the pain will subside for those not directly affected by the World Trade Center Attack. But we CANNOT forget. It is critically important to carry on the memory of the people who lost their lives in the terrorists’ attacks.

Now here we are nearly a decade later. The mastermind of that horrific attack has been killed by American soldiers. The state of Connecticut has and will remember every year in a deeply moving ceremony held at Sherwood Island State Park in Westport on the anniversary of the attacks. The monument was dedicated to our Sept. 11 victims and their families.

The heartbreak is always evident when eyes well up and emotions overflow as each name of a loved one is read. I especially recall the time when one little boy excitedly cried out, “That was Daddy’s name Mom, that was Daddy’s name.” His mom remained motionless until it was time to put a single white rose on a stone inscribed with her husband’s name.

We should never forget what transpired by not only supporting the victims, and their families, so many of whom are still suffering, but also by acknowledging the countless acts of courage and kindness. For in the forms of humanity’s worst cruelties, we discover over and over again man’s capacity for kindness and selflessness.

We must never forget the sacrifices of the brave military and those entrusted to protect and defend us. Just a few short years ago, at the most profoundly heartbreaking hillside service for our town’s own beloved 19-year-old son of Wilton, Nick Madaras, we were overcome by the ultimate sacrifice made by this fine and giving young soldier who died during the explosion of a roadside bomb in Iraq.  We must never forget what happened that day. We owe it to Nick and so many others who have given us the ability to enjoy freedom and all the glory that comes with it. All too often, that freedom is taken for granted.

I leave you with another request. No matter where we come from, Americans must stand together. Our unity and resolve cannot diminish over time. We will be tested, again for sure.

We owe it to our children and grandchildren who will inherit this earth after we are gone. We owe it to the courage of all those who died in wars before us that have allowed us to have so many peaceful years of liberty and security. We owe this resolve to the thousands of innocent victims of Sept. 11 and also the brave servicemen and women who have given up their lives so that we can be here today — safely out of harm’s way.

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