Council Vice President Pete Lesher's Remarks from 9/11 Day of Remembrance

09/11/2023

Category: Emergency Services County Council

The following keynote speech was presented by Talbot County Council Vice President, Pete Lesher at the 9/11 Day of Remembrance Event on September 11, 2023. 

You remember where you were on that fateful morning, when you learned about the unfolding events of the attacks of September 11, 2001. If you were alive—and we now have a generation of Americans who are too young to have experienced it—if you were alive, you remember all too well. And you quickly realized—we all did—that this was a turning point, that things would be different afterwards, though we did not yet know how they would change.

In the following hours and days, we checked in on friends who might have been in or near New York or Washington—thankfully, my friend Chad picked up the phone, so I didn’t have to ask an awkward question of his wife. No, he was safe, had been across the river in Jersey City, had watched the jet strike his office tower. And yes—our friend Patrick, who crewed on a log canoe had walked across the street for a cup of coffee, narrowly missing the fate of his colleagues at Cantor, Fitzgerald.

But so many others—2,977 of them—federal workers, investment bankers, ordinary airplane passengers on a Tuesday morning, first responders—so many others perished. You likely know some of their stories, perhaps those with local connections, like Chris Murphy, who had just moved his family to Talbot County after taking a job as senior research analyst for Keefe, Bruyette and Woods at Two World Trade Center. Because of this community, his wife to this day feels there was no better place to be—no more supportive environment in the immediacy of that tremendous loss—than here in Talbot County. Their daughters, the younger just 5 months old at the time, grew up right here.

We mourn them all, whether they, like Chris, were simply in the wrong place on that fateful morning, or whether they were first responders, called to run toward the danger when the rest of us must run away. And our Talbot County community commemorates them, on this yearly occasion.

Part of what gives our community strength are those who are called to run toward danger. We have them here in Talbot County, many of them present with us today—police, emergency management personnel, volunteer firefighters and ambulance squads. The scale of our emergencies is smaller, and the number of lives in peril is thankfully lower, but they nonetheless are ready to put their lives on the line when the dispatch call comes through.

In ways, we look back to those days after September 11, 2001, remembering how we came together as one. How we—as a community, support our community. Here in Talbot County and across America, we were united in purpose at supporting our first responders, supporting the families who had suffered loss, responding to a threat from outside our borders. We yearn for that unity—that sense of shared purpose—as a nation and as a community.

And while we have not experienced such a devastating day since then, we have faced crises, and those crises have challenged the Talbot County community. In early 2020, in response to a global pandemic that we did not yet fully understand, we were forced to close down most of our public activities—sports, schools, restaurants, museums. But some in our community found themselves classified as “essential workers”—from grocery clerks and shelf stockers to, yes, our first responders. We could not have imagined it would go on for so long. It tried our patience. Through it all, this community kept essential services going—and devised new services that filled new needs. Our children were home from school, and many of them relied on school meals, so our food banks and Care Packs stood up to the challenge and created new food distribution networks almost overnight. This community came together to support the community around us, without regard to race or ethnicity, political affiliation or religion, or anything else that differentiates us.

When the vaccines finally became available, who did we see on the front lines of administering it? Our health department, National Guard medics, our congressman and yes—our first responders. This community came together to support the community around us.

Take a moment to look around you. Is there someone—or a group of people—who have helped you through an emergency? A crisis? A tough spot? And who in this community will be there for you the next time you need that support? Our first responders are well-represented here. And surely—if you are here today and living in this community—someone is thinking about you and the role you will play in that time of need. Take a moment today to express your gratitude to one of those people who either have given you that aid, or are standing by to do so the next time. Thank a first responder who has signed up to assist members of this community whether or not they know the person.

This is what makes us resilient. This is what reminds us of how September 11, 2001, brought out the best in us. We have risen to the challenge when we have heard the call in the past, and we will most assuredly have to do so again sometime in the future. And when we face that outside challenge we will remember that, after all, we are truly one. We are a community that supports our community.

- Talbot County Council Vice President, Pete Lesher

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