John Kriesel, 29, Cottage Grove
He was maybe two weeks into his job at a printing plant, where starting at the bottom meant scraping out the ink tubs. John Kriesel was listening to KQ radio guy Tom Barnard talking about how a plane had flown into a skyscraper in New York City, talking about how "there's a hole in that tower the size of Minneapolis." Wow, sad, Kriesel thought. Then the second tower was hit and Kriesel, who was in the National Guard, knew that we were at war. The rest of the day was awful, everyone trying to listen to the radio, not a TV in the place, but he had to clock through his shift. He remembers getting off work and looking toward Minneapolis "and I so appreciated the skyline that day."
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Kriesel didn't run for state representative last fall because of Sept. 11, or because he lost both legs when a roadside bomb in Iraq hit his 12,000-pound Humvee "and opened it like a can of peaches." He'd simply always been interested in politics. Yet now, after his tumultuous first term in the Legislature, he thinks back to 10 years ago, "and more than anything else, I remember how united we were." He remembers how people talked to you while getting gas -- just chatted, you know? He remembers Sept. 14, driving past the National Guard gate for drill weekend "and the bunch of people outside holding candles and waving flags." Those several months after Sept. 11 were a special time, and if that sounds odd to say, maybe it's because that feeling of being united seems so long ago, and politics didn't seem to matter like they do now. "You want people to get along," he said, "and while it's healthy to have disagreements, it's good to have common ground. I hope we can be like that again. Moments like that put everything in perspective -- like when I got hurt -- and I think I've done a good job of not losing that."