Statement of Senator Jim Jeffords
Hearing on the Federal Emergency Management Agency
We are here this morning to discuss the emergency response to the horrible events of September 11, to learn from these experiences and
to offer the help of the Committee on Environment and Public Works in preparing for future relief efforts.
I visited both the Pentagon and the World Trade Center shortly after the unfortunate and tragic events of September 11th, another day that sadly will live in infamy. The devastation I witnessed was incredible and difficult to put into words. Thousands of people lost their lives due to the cruel and the cunning acts of evil perpetrated by a few. The victims of these attacks were men, women and children --people with well-laid plans for pleasant and prosperous futures.
At these two disaster sites, I also saw the incredible courage and the dedication of firefighters, urban search and rescuers, and other emergency personnel responding to the disaster. People from Vermont, Ohio, Virginia and California, and many points in between. I witnessed the tireless efforts of the men and women of FEMA, working hard to coordinate the relief effort.
Although I left both the Pentagon and the World Trade Center with a heavy heart, I also left with a profound sense of gratitude for the gallant efforts of countless rescuers and volunteers who tirelessly and mostly anonymously worked in places reserved only for "Ground Zero Heroes".
In the month following the attack I have spoken to many people, Vermonters and others, about the attack. They have all expressed profound sadness for our Nation's great loss, but they have also imbued me with the feeling that freedom will prevail. That good will triumph over evil. That these horrible attacks cannot break our resolve to stand together as free Americans.
Abraham Lincoln once said, "Freedom is the last, best hope of Earth." Terrorists may have destroyed these buildings, but they cannot destroy the hope freedom provides.
Today we assemble to commend the efforts of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in responding to this disaster. We assemble to commend the work of emergency responders who gave so much of themselves in serving others. And we assemble to hear what remains to be done in the aftermath of these sad events. To this end, the Committee is also considering several legislative proposals to help FEMA better respond to this disaster and any future incidents.
Additionally, in the last few weeks this committee has received security-related briefings from all of the federal agencies we oversee, including the Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Department of Transportation, the General Services Administration and others.
The most important message I have taken from these meetings is that the federal government is working around the clock to protect our nation. These briefings have also resulted in the request for additional authority from Congress.
I want to put my members on notice that in the coming weeks the Environment and Public Works Committee will be putting together a legislative package to deal with the security needs of the nation.
This package will include the proposals put forth by the agencies we oversee on this Committee and the recommendations given to me by the members of this Committee.
Finally, I'd like to address Mr. Allbaugh and many of those who responded directly to the Pentagon and World Trade Center attacks. I cannot possibly understand how difficult it must have been to have personally toiled amidst the devastation and trauma.
As a nation, we need to heal. Our thoughts go first to the victims and the families of the attacks. But we must not forget that first responders are human.
Firefighters, search and rescue personnel, and other members of the emergency response community faced extreme stress from these traumatic
events. Coping with the intense feelings and shock will take time.
I hope all the emergency response personnel will take this time and look for support when needed. I want you to know how proud all of us are for the work you have done. I look forward to hearing the testimony of the witnesses.