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Spirit of selflessness endures
by U.S. Senator Ted Stevens


September 11, 2004

Three years ago Senator Dan Inouye (D-HI) and I traveled to Ground Zero shortly after the 9.11 attacks.  Governor Pataki and Mayor Giuliani met us and brought us up the river to the site.  It was a sad and terrible sight, but it was also a proving ground of American strength, courage, and resolve. 

After 9.11 firefighters, policemen, and other first responders rushed into burning buildings and saved over 25,000 people from the Twin Towers.  Passengers on Flight 93 made the ultimate sacrifice to protect their fellow citizens on the ground.  And across the country Americans rushed to aid the victims of the attacks; on the day we visited the World Trade Center site, Senator Inouye and I saw thousands of first responders working around the clock trying to find out if more victims could be saved.     

As an Alaskan, I was proud of the outpouring of support from the "Last Frontier."  Alaskan fishermen and firefighters sold silver salmon and donated the proceeds to the families of New York's fallen firefighters.  One young Alaskan took $45 she earned by running a lemonade stand, put it in a fish bowl and brought it to the Red Cross.  Some Alaskans boarded planes and went to the Pentagon to help comfort victim's families.  Others went to Ground Zero and assisted in the search and rescue efforts.

That spirit of selflessness endures.  As a way of thanking the communities who reached out to New York in its moment of need, New York City firefighters have traveled to San Diego this week to rebuild homes that were destroyed during last year's wildfires.  Across the globe, our men and women in uniform are fighting to preserve our freedom; in the last year, many gave what Lincoln called "the last full measure of devotion" to safeguard our liberty. 

In March, I visited with American soldiers and airmen deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait.  I recently met with our Air Force personnel stationed in Kyrgyzstan, and here at home I've had the privilege of meeting injured soldiers at Walter Reed.  On one visit to Walter Reed I asked a young man how he was feeling.  He said, "Senator, help me get back to my unit."  Our young men and women in uniform truly are our nation's next "great generation."  As a veteran, I salute them.        

This year the anniversary of the 9.11 attacks carries a special significance; in July, the cornerstone for the Freedom Tower was placed on the World Trade Center's hallowed ground.  When the tower is complete it will stand 1,776 feet - a tribute to the year that the United States declared its independence.  It's a fitting tribute to 9.11, a day that history will remember as the moment when Americans were confronted with the worst in others and gave the best of themselves.   



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