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Ex-Springfield representative on front lines

By SUSAN SMALLHEER Southern Vermont Bureau

SPRINGFIELD — A former state legislator and lawyer from Springfield, Bruce Lawlor, the brigadier general of the U.S. Joint Forces Command, is in the eye of the storm.

Lawlor, 54, was on his way to New York City to help plan the country’s response to the terrorist attack, his in-laws said Tuesday.

“He likes being in the thick of things,” said Barbara Luther of Perkinsville, his mother-in-law, who had talked to Lawlor’s wife, Carole, earlier in the day.

“He likes a challenge,” added his father-in-law, Robert Luther.

Since early 2000, Lawlor has been the commander of the Joint Task Force Civil Support, which plans for such terrorist attacks as what shocked the country Tuesday.

Lawlor’s office planned for chemical or germ warfare or nuclear attacks, and the office was the first of its kind.

Lawlor, who is a two-star general, according to Barbara Luther, said Lawlor was not at the Pentagon Tuesday when it, too, was struck by a highjacked aircraft. The terrorism task force that Lawlor heads is based in Norfolk, Va.

“This is exactly what he’s trained for,” said Peggy Knoras, his longtime legal secretary.

District Judge Paul F. Hudson said he tried to call Lawlor and his wife Tuesday to make sure they were OK.

“I expect he won’t be sleeping for the next several nights,” said Hudson, who had urged people who gathered at a vigil at the United Methodist Church in Springfield Tuesday night to pray for Lawlor.

Lawlor left Vermont in 1998 for the job in the Pentagon, although he and his family still have a home in Springfield.

Prior to that, he attended Harvard University for a year, studying terrorism and government response to it. He later took a temporary position with NATO in Brussels, returning to his Springfield legal practice briefly, before closing his office for a full-time military career.

In Vermont, he had spent more and more time in the Vermont National Guard, serving as commander of the Vermont National Guard’s 86th armored brigade.

Lawlor is a native of Bellows Falls and had his first taste of politics working on former Gov. Thomas Salmon’s campaign for governor and then for U.S. Senate.

Lawlor had left political life in 1984, when he ran for attorney general and lost to Jeffrey Amestoy, who is now chief justice of the Vermont Supreme Court. Prior to that, Lawlor had served two terms in the Vermont Legislature, representing Springfield.


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