Hundreds of people gathered Wednesday evening in remembrance of the late Sen. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, who was killed in a plane crash ten years ago this month.
The memorial at Macalester College in St Paul, gathered friends and family together for the first in a series of events to honor the late senator. Wellstone, his wife, Sheila, their daughter, Marcia Markuson, died in a plane crash Oct. 25, 2002 over Eveleth, Minn. Also killed were campaign staffers Tom Lapic, Mary McAvoy and Will McLaughlin, and the plane's captain, Richard Conry and co-pilot Michael Guess.
Gov. Mark Dayton was among the hundreds of people at the remembrance. Dayton recalled that in the month before he died, Wellstone voted against the war in Iraq. Dayton was a U.S. Senator at the time. Shortly afterward, Dayton saw Wellstone for the last time. Dayton said Wellstone told him he had jumped six points ahead in the polls.
"He was ecstatic. His faith in Minnesotans was reaffirmed. He had their support. The bond was unbroken," Dayton said. "There's no consolation for me in what followed, except for my belief that Paul boarded the plane that fateful morning, knowing he would be re-elected to the United States Senate."
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Dayton said if Wellstone had lived he probably would have run for president.
"People throughout the country were urging him to run for president. Had he lived, who knows. I personally believe, without any evidence, that he would've felt duty-bound to try," Dayton said. "And I have no doubt that he would've been a far better presidential candidate in 2004 than the Democratic senator who won the nomination and lost only narrowly to President Bush."
Connie Lewis, who was Wellstone's state director in 2002, said at times it was difficult to move forward after the tragedy.
"There were times when the injustice of it all overwhelmed everything," Lewis said. "But we all collectively picked up, moved forward, learned from those very special people, and have made the warmth, love, compassion and capacity to ignite hope that was at their core, part of our own lives."
At least two other remembrances are planned by the group, Wellstone Action, which was founded by Wellstone's surviving sons and members of his campaign staff. A memorial is planned for the Oct. 25 anniversary at the site of the crash in Eveleth. A third event is scheduled in Washington, D.C.