“I will never forget the Capitol Police and one policeman was yelling, ‘Leave, there’s a plane inbound in 14 minutes.’ I can remember him saying that. ... But what I’ll never forget about that was the Capitol Police who stayed, in their minds knowing that a plane was headed there. ... The remarkable bravery. Also people helping each other. It was — for a chaotic, horrible situation — it was very orderly and the police were just fantastic.”
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“We had about 200 BlackBerrys [deployed to Members and staff as part of a pilot program at the time]. I was actually testing one. I didn’t want to. ... Every single thing went out in Washington. You couldn’t make a call if somebody had a gun to your head. That BlackBerry worked. Because eventually Neil Volz said there’s an undisclosed location, come up here. That’s how I found out about where everybody that could be communicated with was going. ... Eventually it was like a street corner thing. ... Members got the word to come to the location, which was the Capitol Police building, as we know. After that [then-House Administration ranking member] Steny Hoyer [D-Md.] and I through the House budget paid for a BlackBerry for every single Member that wanted one.”
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“When I got there, [then-House Minority Leader Dick] Gephardt [D-Mo.] was there [at Capitol Police headquarters]. [Then-House Majority Leader Tom] DeLay [R-Texas], Hoyer, myself. If I recall correctly maybe 40 to 50-some Members, House and Senate. Then eventually more Members started coming.
The full body never did get there at that time. ... Steny Hoyer and I addressed the House Members [at about 4 p.m.]. There had to be about 150-some Members there by that time. ... Members were beginning to say, and rightfully so, to say we should go to the Capitol or we should do something. Some Members wanted to have [a] session. There was a lot of different ideas. I remember Hoyer and I talked to them to some extent ... about the fact that, look, we don’t know what all that is out there. We don’t know what all can happen. So the decision was made by them to go sing ‘God Bless America’ on the [Capitol] steps.”
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“There was this working group formed who immediately began to talk about what we needed to do. And life changed. And then anthrax came and then life changed again. A lot of decisions had to be made. ... That was the beginning of a six-month saga. In the sense that we had to immediately sit down as a working group. ... I can tell you within that week immediately hundreds of ideas — some very thoughtful, most very thoughtful, some not — started pouring in from Members and staff. And we appreciated that. But we had to do a series of security changes because we didn’t ever face anything like that.
[Then-Chief Administrative Officer] Jay Eagen came up with the idea to put this working group together to get the immediate urgent emergency changes. The second part would be the urgent ones. The third part the short-term, and the fourth part the long-term. ... That’s how we proceeded from then on. Now thank goodness we had that working group because then we had anthrax on the heels of that.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.