Vermonters Respond to Terrorism

Vermont Public Radio Commentary

Announcer: Recently commentator Rick Hubbard had knee surgery. His doctor suggested walking as therapy and since early September, he’s been walking about Vermont, taking his own informal opinion poll.


Whenever I take a break from my walking, which is pretty often, I try to talk to those around me. As you might expect, since September 11th, the main topic of conversation has been “How can we bring those responsible to justice and most effectively reduce the threat of future terrorist attacks?”

I’ve spoken with a lot of people. 4 older hikers who’d gotten off the Long Trail at Cuttingsville to hear more of the news over dinner at a local restaurant, storekeepers in Peru and Mt Holly, a salvage dealer from Chester, a waitress and a shopkeeper from Ludlow. People in Landgrove, Londonderry, Windham.

On the afternoon of the attack, a Shrewsbury land planner had just given me permission to camp overnight in her pasture. As we stood outside on a brilliant fall day, she worried that it would be a mistake to feed the cycle of violence with an overly aggressive or too broad response.

Later the next day in Proctor, I sipped tea on a sunny front porch with a retired minister. He passionately argued that many of our international policies have been too self-centered and thus perceived as unfair by many throughout the world. This must change he stated, to effectively reduce future terrorism.

From a group of retirees at a tag sale in Andover, a shopkeeper in Ludlow, a couple of retired Christmas tree growers in Worcester, an independent businesswoman in Elmore, and a writer who walked with me to Wolcott, I’ve heard the same concerns.

Without exception, everybody wanted to talk about what’s at stake: American lives, wise use of limited resources, our international standing, and our safety at home.

I pitched my tent one night on the lawn by a brook at a Weston inn. The innkeeper noted that during the past 20 years, over a million Afghans died and over 15,000 Russian soldiers were killed before Russia withdrew from their war in Afghanistan in defeat. A guest at the inn added: if future terrorist attacks escalate, an attack on a nuclear power plant could produce a Chernoble type disaster killing tens or even hundreds of thousands of Americans.

A battered woman’s advocate in Rutland worried that we’ll need to divert enormous resources from serving human needs in order to pay for military services.

A waitress in Cuttingsville found it ironic that while our government talks of withdrawing from the Antiballistic Missile Treaty, and refused to join 178 other nations to reduce worldwide climate change, we now find ourselves needing the cooperation of other nations to track down and go after the terrorists. She worried how current Washington leaders will navigate the strong cross-currents of these differing approaches.

I heard two things everywhere. First, we must bring those responsible for the terrorist attacks to justice. And second, we must do it in a way that demonstrates our strength as a cooperative world leader, yet applies our resources to further the common interests of the whole world, along with our own.

Listening to them I was reminded of the old saying: “You can draw more flies with honey than with vinegar.” I heard many suggestions for a Marshall-type Plan, offering education, health care and economic aid.

These conversations have given me at least – a lot to think about.


This is Rick Hubbard from South Burlington.