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10/25/2003 @ 05:00 PM: One year ago today Senator Paul Wellstone, his wife, daughter, three campaign aids, and two pilots were killed in a plane crash in northern Minnesota.

As my political aspirations have grown, so has Paul Wellstone's model for the type of politician, activist, and person I want to be. Despite having never met him, I still feel a deep, personal loss with his untimely passing.

I will never forget the moment I learned of the tragedy.

I was at school, walking to the parking ramp after an English class. I had just passed a coffee stand where a few muttered words from employees caught my attention. Something like, "They don't know if Wellstone has to drop out of the campaign or what." My first reaction was that there had been some Republican mudslinging going on and that they had dug up something and exaggerated it to the press (an occurrence that, by the way, never happened--probably because there was no dirt to dig up). Only moments later, however, I learned the truth via an announcement over the entire MCTC campus. Immediately my heart raced, my limbs went cold, my legs shook, and I fell down to my knees. A woman just to my right put her hands to her face and started to cry (I think). I remember being frustrated with the people that paused for the announcement and then went about their business, but that got lost amidst a swirl of emotions that I still have yet to completely sort out.

The following is an email I sent to my entire address book shortly after I got home that afternoon:

Friday, October 25, 2002 3:33 PM

My overall concern for the state of politics in America has been heightened in recent times because of what seems to be a growing trend of apathy and feelings of helplessness among citizens. Senator Paul Wellstone was, for me, an incredible bright spot amidst a sea of conservative politicians. In this particularly significant 2002 election, the positive approach of his campaign and his insistence on NOT taking contributions from corporations filled me with a sense of optimism that I wouldn't normally feel. He was the most inspirational individual for me personally as I've been preparing myself for a career in politics. Today is a very sad day.

I heard the news of the plane crash via an announcement over campus at school at about 1:15. Immediately my legs trembled and I dropped my bag. By the time I had strutted to my car in the parking ramp I was yelling, "WHY THE FUCK DID IT HAVE TO BE HIM??!!" I am still a twisted mess of shock, sadness and anger.

I still have every intention of voting for Paul Wellstone if his name appears on the ballot. I hope everyone who had also planned to vote for him will do the same.

I attended the now infamous Wellstone Memorial at Williams Arena on the University of Minnesota campus. Though I do agree some comments made were a little out of line, I am extremely disappointed in the lack of compassion most people demonstrated for those who were mourning the tragedy on a more personal level--where they knew and worked with the Senator, his family, and his aids (see this article in the Star Tribune). But that is neither here nor there, now, and we are all aware of the results (and repercussions) of the 2002 elections. I encourage everyone to research and know the candidates for 2004; it will surely be an election for the bold to be heard.

An amazing organization has taken over the former Wellstone campaign website. Wellstone Action! is a non-profit organization put together by Wellstone's two sons and several of the people who used to work for him. Reading through their information is well worth it, and they offer many suggestions for ways to contribute.

Also worthy of acknowledgment is Wellstone World Music Day, an event inspired by Twin Cities music columnist Jim Walsh. I'm not performing for it this year, but will be next year and every year following.

Thanks for letting me stand on the soap box today.

thumbnail 001thumbnail 002thumbnail 003thumbnail 004Photo Chronology: 1996 to Today
thumbnail 005thumbnail 006thumbnail 007thumbnail 008Please feel free to peruse these memories from the AT photo archives.

Andrew Thomas