I will never forget ten years ago on September 11, 2001. That day I woke up to a beautiful sunny morning and went out on the front porch to smoke a cigarette. It was the last one in the pack, so I knew I would be stopping by the store to pick up some more. My wife Joan called me in the house to see what was happening on the news. Naturally we were stunned as we saw these events unfold. As the hours went by I didn't even notice that I would usually have had a smoke by then. I told Joan, "Hey, that was my last cigarette!" meaning that I was out and would need go get more. She said "Really?" perhaps misunderstanding, but as it turns out that was indeed the last cigarette I have smoked. Considering the events of that day, it seemed natural to make the final decision to embrace life.
Later in the day we watched as the members of Congress gathered on the steps of the Capitol Building to pray and sign God Bless America. My son Jason, who was 14 years old at the time, said, "Dad, we should do something like that here." We called the mayor's office and after some discussion and many telephone calls that day it ended up that over 1,000 people gathered together as a united community in front of City Hall in The Dalles, Oregon to pray, sing and mourn together. This was the day I started to become more politically active, serving on boards and committees and eventually holding elected office.
As I reflect on the past ten years, I am sometimes amazed at the changes in our world and in my life. In the days after 9-11 our nation was united and there was a sense of caring for each other on such a broad scale. This unity and strength of purpose did not always hold fast, but on days like today when we commemorate the tenth anniversary of that fateful day I am hopeful. I am hopeful that one day we will live in a world where people are kind to each other, where understanding others is more important than getting our own way, and where peace reigns.