ST. PAUL (WCCO) — If there’s such a thing as the fabric of freedom, you will see it in the eyes of immigrants.

“Oh, it’s great, we’ve been waiting a long time,” the husband of a Cambodian woman, awaiting naturalization, said.

When poet Emma Lazarus wrote of the “huddled masses,” what she saw was on display inside St. Paul’s RiverCenter. That is where the U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services would conduct one of its larger naturalization services of the year.

“I feel lucky and excited,” said a young Ayan Abdi.

The former Somalian spent the better part of childhood in a Djibouti refugee camp. On Tuesday, Abdi was among 875 immigrants from 94 countries yearning for a permanent taste of American freedom.

“It is really heartwarming you know and I am so proud to be United States, American citizen, so big day for me today,” Abdi said.

Tuyen Nguyen’s parents were children of the Vietnam War. Eight years after emigrating to be reunited with their daughter and grandchildren, they stood in the RiverCenter crowd to swear a new allegiance.

Said Nguyen, “they had to wait a long time to become citizens and can’t express feelings but happy to be here today.”

As all Americans paused to reflect back on that terribly dark and frightening day when freedom was attacked, there’s a reassuring comfort in its embrace. People who are suddenly overwhelmed with the opportunities and promise freedom holds.

Explains U.S. Magistrate Judge, Kate Menendez, who performed the ceremony, “to see so many people believe in the American mission and want to participate in the country and want to make things even better is really a wonderful way to commemorate the tragedy of 9/11.”

With right hands raised it was time for Menendez to administer the oath of citizenship. It was a powerful and emotional pledge that left former Honduran, Jose Hernandez, choking back tears of joy.

Explaining the feeling, Hernandez said purely, “I’m excited, I am happy.”

Yes, there truly is a fabric of freedom. It is one that gets stronger with each new face.

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