They sang as the whole world watched.
Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins took to the U.S. Capitol steps with members of Congress after a day of sadness and shock, and launched strong and clear into “God Bless America.”
“It was a brief moment in a momentous day, but it told a powerful truth: Standing together and standing strong, America will stand up to any challenge,” Collins told the Sun Journal through a spokesman.
Through her staff, Snowe reflected on that same memory, also one of her most vivid from Sept. 11.
“We sang to send a message to the country and to the world that we would never be deterred, that freedom would never be crushed by the blunt and remorseless instruments of terror,” she said.
Acts of kindness stood out in the aftermath, Snowe said. The Portland Symphony Orchestra dedicated a concert to victims with ties to Maine. Mill workers in Baileyville pooled together $6,000 for the relief effort.
“One employee contributed his entire $600 tax-relief refund to the cause, saying it was the least he could do to help,” Snowe said.
Collins, the ranking Republican on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, has visited the Middle East and troops there several times in the years since.
“For me, the most profound impact of 9/11 has been a deeper appreciation of our national character,” Collins said. “The attacks did not create American unity and resolve.”
But, she said, they did reveal it.
Statement from U.S. Sen. Susan Collins to the Sun Journal on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks:
"On the evening of September 11th, 2001, members of Congress came together on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. With tears in our eyes and sorrow in our hearts, we sang “God Bless America.” A day that began with shock and anger ended with unity and resolve.
In the hours and days following the attacks, the horrifying images of fire and destruction were supplanted by inspiring stories of bravery and self-sacrifice. At the Twin Towers, at the Pentagon, and in the skies over Pennsylvania, rescue workers and ordinary citizens gave their lives to save the lives of others. Across this great land, the American people reached out with compassion and generosity to the injured and the grieving families. The men and women of our armed forces formed a mighty shield to defend our lives and our freedom.
For me, the most profound impact of 9/11 has been a deeper appreciation of our national character. The attacks did not create American unity and resolve. Rather, they revealed the enduring qualities that have been our strength throughout history. Those qualities inspire my work in the United States Senate to secure our homeland against terrorism and to support those in uniform who protect us all.
I will never forget that evening on the Capitol steps. It was a brief moment in a momentous day, but it told a powerful truth – standing together and standing strong, America will stand up to any challenge."
Statement from U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe to the Sun Journal on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks
“I well recall that the morning of September 11, 2001, began with such remarkable blue skies, but ended with a nation in mourning and stunned disbelief. In Washington, D.C., I watched the images along with the rest of the world. Later, as the sun set over the National Mall – still capped by smoke billowing from the wound in the side of the Pentagon – I will never forget gathering with my colleagues in the House and Senate on the Capitol steps to sing “God Bless America.” We sang to send a message to the country and to the world that we would never be deterred – that freedom would never be crushed by the blunt and remorseless instruments of terror.
I will always remember here in Maine, firefighters from throughout the state rushed to aid in the rescue and recovery efforts, the Portland Symphony Orchestra gave an inspiring “Concert of Remembrance and Healing,” dedicated to those with close ties to Maine who lost their lives, and the 554 employees of a pulp and paper mill in Baileyville who donated more than $6,000 to help people whom the workers had never met, in places many of them had never visited. One employee contributed his entire $600 tax-relief refund to the cause, saying it was the least he could do to help.
Out of the rubble on September 11th rose our resolve, out of despair grew our determination, and out of the hate that was perpetrated upon us proudly stood our humanity. We illustrated in word and deed that the iconic American spirit is stronger and more permanent than any pain or suffering that can be inflicted upon us. If the likes of Osama bin Laden laid bare the unimaginable cruelties of which humankind is capable, it also imbued forever within our minds the heights to which the human spirit can rise – even and especially in the face of mortality."