A tale of two election nights

On September 11, 2001 Seth Moulton was a 22 year old recent Harvard Physics grad who had just joined the Marines and was waiting for his orders. He joined the military, one not engaged in an active conflict at that time, because he wanted to serve his country. His mentor, the Reverend Peter Gomes, instilled in him the importance of public service. He chose military service.

On that date, an Election Day in the then 8th congressional district in Massachusetts, Stephen Lynch was a state senator running in a special election to replace the late Joe Moakley. He was an iron worker, a lawyer, and a former state representative.

That morning’s sky, as we remember it frozen in memory, was brilliant, the weather campaign perfect. Stephen, with his daughter Victoria in his arms, marched down G Street in South Boston with his wife Margaret, to the poll to vote, media in tow. We left in a couple of cars to tour the polls.

The rest, as they say.

We made our way to campaign HQ and as Stephen, who as a state senator represented a number of families with loved ones on planes that day, handled their requests for information, I left election headquarters and sat in my car.

I couldn’t reach my wife, the network was overwhelmed and as I learned later, she was helping a neighbor who lost her husband on the first flight.

Knowing we would have to discard the victory speech I had helped write, which I believe did not mention foreign policy and certainly not war, I took out a pad of paper and wrote a new draft, which after input from Stephen, he delivered at 10PM that evening. It started with recounting the news and prayers for the families. It mentioned his victory only in noting the voters faith in him. It ended:

“We will not be cowed, nor change our principles, but will continue to set an example for the world. And by these actions, we will show the true strength of America.”

Stephen Lynch won the general election in October, but his seating in Congress was delayed by the Capitol anthrax scare. Since being seated he has focused on our handling of our foreign entanglements and is one of the most traveled members to war torn regions. At home, he safeguards services for veterans.

As I mentioned, his original victory speech was scant on military affairs. It hadn’t come up much during the campaign. The Cold War had ended ten years before. The focus was on bread and butter issues, and the differences between the candidates was on social policy and who was best suited to fill the very big shoes of the legendary Joe Moakley.

I’d like to say that the words I wrote, and Lynch delivered, proved true. But we were cowed. Every time I go through an airport and take off my shoes because of the terror of the “shoe” bomber, I’m comforted he didn’t hide his bomb making liquids in his underwear.

Congressman Lynch, now a veteran member, seeks transparency on the origins of the attack on 9/11, even if it implicates our allies in the Mideast. This is leadership, one borne of circumstances not anticipated on the morning of September 11, 2001.

For Seth Moulton, 9/11 changed his expectations of service. He was in the first platoon to enter Baghdad. He fought in Najaf after being assigned there as a military advisor to the Iraqi army. He served four tours total, two as an assistant to General Patreaus.

He came home, he got his graduate degrees, he started a business, and he was asked to make a run for congress.

He did so. The primary election was September 9th. 13 years minus two days from that date.

9/11 shaped two men called to service; one elected to congress on that date who has learned about and focused on our foreign entanglements, and one who opposed the war in Iraq but served with distinction in the Marines, and seeks to be a congressman informed by his experience there.


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