Lucio Masthead Graphic
August 31, 2007
Contact: Doris Sanchez , Press Secretary
(512) 463-0385
The Critical Role of American Workers in Times of Tragedy

Labor Day memorializes the American worker. This year we should pay special tribute to those who assist victims of catastrophes.

On the night of September 15, 2001, two weeks after Labor Day, the Queen Isabella Causeway was ripped apart after a string of barges crashed into it. Unable to see the danger that lay ahead, several motorists plunged into the dark waters of the Laguna Madre while driving across it.

All of us were still shaken by the events of 9/11, so this loss of lives tore the hearts of Texans throughout this state.

In 2003, I had the distinct privilege of honoring the victims, their relatives and the survivors of this horrific accident in our state Capitol by offering Senate Memorial Resolution 565.

Those recognized were Jackie Golterman and her three-year-old grandson William Welch, who lost both parents--Chealsa (Golterman's daughter) and Barry Welch. Also present were Clarissa Hinojosa Arellano, Gaspar Hinojosa II, and Omar Hinojosa who lost their father, Gaspar S. Hinojosa. Daisy Harris-Read and Pat Harris stood for their brother Robert Harris, who was then the Port Isabel Fire Marshal. Gustavo A. Morales Jr., a survivor, and his wife Idalia, were in attendance. Two other survivors who were not present but still honored were Brigette Goza of Port Isabel and Rene Mata of Laguna Vista.

I also passed Senate Bill 139 that changed the name of the Causeway to the Queen Isabella Memorial Bridge.

The recent collapse of the Interstate-35 bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis was a grim reminder of our own South Texas loss. While our hearts went out to the people of Minnesota and concern for bridge safety raised alarms throughout the country, this incident highlighted again the value of people employed as firefighters, medics, law enforcement officers, medical professionals and so many others who provide highly-skilled services mixed with a great deal of compassion.

These first responders, along with the many professionals who provide follow-up care, play a critical role in this country, especially when catastrophes like these occur. While many boldly risk their lives to save those of complete strangers, others provide acute medical care that often prevents death and helps heal serious injuries.

Federal, state and local officials also provide the leadership and coordination necessary during these difficult times. They too are to be commended, and I did so during the Queen Isabella ceremonies both in Austin and on South Padre Island during the official renaming.

It is often said that the American worker is the backbone of our country. I add to this statement that the worker is also the heart of America.

And what better way to respect hard-working taxpayers than to ensure them that their tax dollars are being properly utilized, including for bridge safety.

I, for one, will be proactive and continue to push for safer bridges in this state. I want assurance that the Queen Isabella Memorial Bridge is continually inspected and properly maintained, so that the tragic night of September 15 will never be repeated. But if we are ever faced again with another catastrophe, even a hurricane, we know we can count on those skilled and dedicated to help save lives and offer assistance.

During the memorial ceremony for the families of the Queen Isabella disaster, I said, "For this reason, I stand before you today and ask that you honor the memory of the deceased and all those who did everything in their power to lessen the pain for all of us."

I know that the families of the Queen Isabella Memorial Bridge victims, as well as those impacted by the Minneapolis bridge collapse and 9/11, are grateful to the many who assisted in various capacities.

This Labor Day my family, my staff and I want to let the families of the Queen Isabella Memorial Bridge tragedy know that that they are frequently in our thoughts and prayers, and that their memories of their loved ones will live forever in the hearts and minds of our community.

I encourage everyone to remember the contributions of the American worker, while many of us enjoy this three-day holiday. I wish everyone a blessed and safe Labor Day, including those who worked to put out this newspaper!

As always, if you have any input or questions regarding these or other matters, please do not hesitate to contact Doris Sanchez, my press secretary, 512-463-0385.