Lt. Gov. Phil Scott's Reflections on Irene Anniversary
Lt. Governor Phil Scott delivered the following remarks at the Irene Anniversary Commemoration in Randolph on August 28, 2012.
Shyla, thanks very much for that moving performance of “Amazing Grace.”
I don’t know about you, but when I hear that hymn sung, I’m usually at a memorial service of some sort. And after those events, I usually come away intending to do better in some way: renew friendships, get together with family more often, or maybe even give up a vice or two. And then, unfortunately, the daily grind of life gets in the way of my good intentions.
Tonight, we mark the anniversary of a devastating event that nonetheless brought out the best in us, and where we all had the best of intentions. We helped our neighbors without being skeptical or critical. We opened our doors and our hearts, and we stood together, Vermont Strong.
In this sense, 8/28 is almost the Vermont version of what we faced as a nation on 9/11. Another terrible day of destruction that proved our strength and inspired our pride. Most of us remember where we were on that day, how we reacted, and what suddenly became crystal clear about what was really important.
We’ve all been doing a lot of reflecting on the lessons learned from Irene. Those lessons were in my own mind last week, when I spoke at the annual banquet of the Vermont Firefighters’ Association. Looking out at that room of firefighters and EMTs, it hit me: While our own reactions to a disaster like 8/28 or 9/11 might feel for us extraordinary, for these folks it’s more routine. Our first responders are faced with this possibility every single day. They race into a burning building or dive into a crumpled car, driven by adrenaline and the desire to help. They don’t stop to wonder how these people got there. Were they driving too fast? Were they smoking a cigarette? Are they gay or straight, Republican or Democrat, rich or poor? They don’t pass judgment. All that matters is that someone needs their help. And that happens every single day.
I think the most important lesson we can take from Irene is that “8/28” might not necessarily be so remarkable: because there’s an “Irene” in everyone’s life at one time or another. The accident that claims a life. The family going through a divorce. Someone struggling with cancer, alcoholism or drug addiction. The list goes on and on. We don’t have to look far to find it. We have only to keep our eyes and our minds open, and instead of offering judgment, offer an outstretched hand.
We sometimes tend to focus too often on the things that divide us, instead of what unites us. That’s especially true during these even-numbered years. Let’s not let the most important lesson of Irene fade away into negativity.
We are Vermont Strong. And before we are rich or poor, Republican or Democrat, gay or straight…we are Vermonters first. Thank you.