Hillary Clinton: We must reconstruct the American spirit

From a floor statement given by the the junior Senator from New York in the United States Senate, Washington DC
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I wanted to take just a few a minutes of morning business to report to my colleagues about my visit, along with Senator Schumer, to New York yesterday [Wednesday] and to convey the appreciation that New Yorkers feel – starting with our Governor and our Mayor, but going down through the people whom I saw, whether they were a fire fighter or a police officer or an emergency medical technician or someone standing on the street – for the unified and extraordinary support that has been demonstrated by our entire country, starting with our President.

I felt, Mr President, as though I were on the edge of hell. I watched the smoke rising. I could see the twisted wreckage, and I had a much clearer visual image because of my helicopter view, and I saw the people who have been working, hour after hour since this vicious attack occurred, coming toward me. Their shift was over. They were seeking some respite. Firefighters in their uniforms covered from head to toe with dust and debris, exhausted, dragging their fire axes behind them, and the impression and feeling that one gets from actually being even as close as I was is so much greater, with respect to the devastation, than we see on our television screens. The television, in a sense, contains and miniaturises what has happened in New York.

The overall impression that I take from that experience yesterday is of the pride I feel in the work that is being done, the leadership given by our Mayor, our Governor, our police and fire and emergency personnel, the extraordinary readiness of our hospitals to care for injured. The tragedy is there are not as many injured as they had expected, and the realisation that we have a very big job ahead of us; a job of cleaning up, rebuilding and reconstructing.

I am very pleased that the President will be going to New York tomorrow afternoon. I applaud and salute him for that decision. I know that that was a difficult decision because of the security issues that surround the movement of any president, and I want, personally, on behalf of my constituents, to thank him

I introduced legislation earlier today that will be co-sponsored by many colleagues on both sides of the aisle. It has an identical companion bill in the House it is S.1422, which will expedite the process by which the federal government provides benefits to the families of public safety officers, – firefighters, police officers, emergency-service personnel and others – who lost their lives in the line of duty. And I'm pleased once again that the President in his videophone conversation with the mayor and the governor stated his strong support for this legislation.

You know, it's been said that more public-safety officers lost their lives in the terrorist attack against the United States on September 11th than in any other single event in modern history.

We will not give up until we find every single person. Yet, when we look at who is on the front line, it is not me carrying the axe. It is not me, as one of the iron workers, who rushed down, who volunteered their services to help remove some of the debris. It is not me as a police officer on the front line. It is these men and women who have made the sacrifice to protect us and to respond as they would have in a time of battle and, in effect, when this act of war took place, they were our front-line soldiers.

We have all been stricken by this cowardly act of terrorism, but I'm confident that we will respond with the same resolute purpose that has always defined us as a nation, with the same compassion that marks us as a people, and with the resolve, not only to defend ourselves wherever and whenever that is necessary, but to rebuild and reconstruct the human spirit and the physical terrain of America.