Monday, January 25, 2010

On Top Of Capitol Hill ~ United We Stand

A personal account testimony by Jan Smolinski

On January 21, 2010 the missing and unidentified voices echoed loud and clear in front of the subcommittee on Capitol Hill at 11:00 AM.

Our trip to DC started two days prior at 1:00 PM. My husband Bill Sr., John Murray (Journalist and owner of the Waterbury Observer) started our 6 hour drive to Washington DC. Anticipation and an enormous amount of emotions ran through my head but my final goal was to speak for our nations families and the daily nightmare they face.

The Silent Crisis needs to be revealed and be heard loud and clear.

The first night we had some extra time, checked into our hotel and met John in the lobby we walked to a local eatery called Potbelly's the food was tremendous, we found ourselves eating other meals at the same restaurant.

After our dinner we walked to the Metro- subway that took us across town in the direction of the "White house".  It was amazing to actually stand in front of the "White house" and think of the history that had taken place within the walls of the historical Presidential dwelling.

Directly across the street of the White house was a protestor for peace and against nuclear weapons. We spoke with him and learned he and another woman take 12 hour shifts, both have been residing on the sidewalk since the 1980's. They live on donations people kindly put in a medal dish nearby. The man was pleasant and obviously dedicated to the cause. I can't imagine how they could sleep and spend each day for 12 hours in the area they have called their home. The temperature dips down to the single numbers at times. This particular evening was balmy for a winter in January, it was 50 degrees. Walking and taking in the sights was a real pleasure.

After leaving the White house we walked over to the Washington Monument. It is an enormous structure, we talked about the history of it and continued on walking by the enormous Smithsonian Institute, directly in front of us was the Capital Building.  It was magnificent,the dome was well lit. We stood in awe just talking about the history. On the path leading to the Capital building was surprisingly free of people, a few joggers ran by us that was the extent of it. The presence of security was very evident every where you travel in downtown DC.

After the capital we walked to Union Station where we took the subway back to the hotel on Connecticut Avenue.  This was a first time for Bill and I to see the magnificence of our great country's capital and what our country has stood for for many many years. In the two hours we walked, John is knowledgeable about the buildings and filled our heads with historical facts. We are grateful to have him with us.

10:00 PM we said good night to John and went to our room.

6:30 AM we met John in the lobby, walked to eat breakfast, that started our day. The rest of time spent in DC was scheduled and busy. We took a cab to the Capital John got his press pass than met at 11:00 AM for preparation of the testimony to be be held the next day.

After lunch, an aid for Congressman Murphy took us on a tour of the Capital building it was very interesting, every room beamed with history.

The mental and emotional drain of the day was evident, we took the subway back to the hotel. Bill and I turned in, John told us he walked up Connecticut Ave until 11:30 that night.

Testimony day, 6:30 AM, we met John in the hotel lobby and walked down the street to a local breakfast place.  After, we dressed for the day in suits, hailed a cab and off to the Capital.

Traffic is always heavy in the AM so we allowed time just in case and arrived in plenty of time. In order to get into the building security is very strict and takes time to go through the screening.

Our destination was the Cannon House where the congress offices reside. The other side of the building is where the Senators reside. On this day we were to stay on the Congress section of the building.

Preparation continued until the time of the hearing. Senator Lieberman's counselor came to Congressman Murphy's office and talked with us for a while. At that time she said it would be time to get Senator Co sponsorship and revealed that Senator Lieberman had committed to sponsor the bill. It is exciting to see the bill move forward.

Shortly before 11:00 AM we walked to the room to testify, it was an out of body experience. I was well aware this was a one time shot and had to fight for the families. "The Quilt of Hope" hung under the subcommittee and directly in front of us.

We were introduced to the panel members who would testify and exchanged our thoughts with one another concerning the bill.

Hearing Information 
Hearing Documentation

Hearing on: H.R. 3695, the "Help Find the Missing Act" or "Billy’s Law"

Thursday 01/21/2010 - 11:00 A.M.

2141 Rayburn House Office Building

Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security

By Direction of the Chairman

Witness List

Panel I

Hon. Christopher S. Murphy

U.S. House of Representatives
5th District, CT

Hon. Ted Poe
U.S. House of Representatives
2nd District, TX

Panel II
Janice Smolinski
Cheshire, CT

Stephen L. Morris
Deputy Assistant Director
Criminal Justice Information Services Division
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Washington, DC

Kristina Rose
Acting Director
National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs
U.S. Department of Justice Washington, DC

After Congressman Murphy and Congressman Poe finished testifying, we exchanged seats and we sat three in a row from left to right Stephen Morris -FBI, Kristina Rose- DOJ, and Me. I was to testify first. Directly in front of me was the "Quilt of Hope" with faces looking directly at the panel as if to say, please help me. It was an emotional time I knew I had to deliver every ounce of voice and speak for the families.

If it wasn't for all the families and supporters we would not have reached the point to where we are today. You are important and we need to hold hands, be the village and make the long over due bill become law. There are no words to express what happened that day. The subcommittee was attentive you could hear a pin drop as each testimony was read.

We met tremendous people and they truly care about each and every story heard. They actually understand and are committed. One of the truly touching moments was when after the hearing the Quilt was looked at by members and others in the room.

We returned back to the Congressman's office where we ate lunch. After lunch, the Congressman and I attended a press conference by phone. Our CT local TV station WVIT set up an interview in a building nearby that housed many TV stations including MSNBC. The back-drop in the interview room is the Dome of the Capital building which added to the emotions of the day and how important this day truly had been.

Exhausted and emotionally worn we walked to Union Station, took the subway back, checked out of the hotel and drove back home.

We left with a sense of accomplishment, eager to continue on this journey, the excitement was evident everywhere. A special thank you to Congressman Murphy and Linda Foreman, Judiciary staffer who championed and addressed the problems and did whatever necessary to create H.R.3695 Help Find The Missing Act (Billy's Law) for the good of all the families in the country.

Thank you Congressman Poe and all the co sponsors for understanding that the time is right and the need to improve the non working system we have currently have and the courage to take a stand.

We returned home at 10:00 PM after our 6 hour drive home.

The bill is moving forward now excepting not only co sponsors of Federal Congress persons but Senators as well with Senator Lieberman sponsoring on the Senate side. The bill is now going onto a committee where they will "markup" which means they are going to change whatever they feel necessary to the bill which we were told there will be little change.

Uncertainty is a cancer that crushes the spirit of loved ones left behind, destroys marriages and tears at the tissue of family bonds. The stress of having a missing loved turns some to substance abuse, creates health problems and drives people into bankruptcy. Unless there is some form of resolution, the heartache never truly goes away.

Congressman Murphy's effort gives families like ours hope for a better, more certain tomorrow. This legislation is long overdue, and the missing community applauds his effort. This act is named after our son, but it's not for him, or the Smolinski family.

This act is for every American, and is an ultimate act in Homeland Security.