More than 2,500 immigrants living in Massachusetts became U.S. citizens on Sept. 11, 2012 during a naturalization ceremony in Boston.
Thousands gathered inside TD Garden, home of the Boston Bruins, for the ceremony. They sat on folding chairs where the Bruins ice would usually be. Images of stars and stripes adorned the LED screens ringing the arena.
Among those preparing to recite the oath of citizenship was Patrick Varney Coleman, a 25-year-old serving in the U.S. Army. His family fled from Liberia during the civil war to a refugee camp in Ghana, and then eventually sought refuge in the U.S.
Coleman recently came back from deployment in Afghanistan. "I’ve done a lot for this country and I'm willing to do more. Sept. 11 last year I was serving in Afghanistan. I was attacked last year in Afghanistan, also Sept. 11. So being here today just means a lot to me," he said.
Coleman said he's proud to become an American citizen and that the U.S. has given him the opportunity to get an education and continue his career.
Joanna Fisher has been here practically her entire life. Her family came to this country from the Philippines when Mount Pinatubo erupted and destroyed her village. She was 2 years old.
"I don’t really know my language as a Filipino or anything like that," she said. "And I’ve always considered myself an American citizen. But now today is like the official 'get rid of my green card' and you know … it just opens up a lot more opportunities for me."
Once everyone was inside the arena, Samantha Stoutenburg of the Boston Federal Court administered the oath of citizenship. The immigrants stood and recited it after her: “I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies foreign and domestic …”
The crowd erupted in applause and waved tiny American flags.
Then Judge Douglas Woodlock addressed the new citizens, saying, "I don’t want to dwell on the anniversary today of 9/11 but it seems to me that one thing we can say is that the resilience of the United States after that attack is as a result of the many different cultures which have blended together to provide continued strength."
Fisher was nodding her head. She said what better way to turn a sad day into a proud one than by becoming a United States citizen.