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After 9/11, Safety Became Focus for Bob Ney

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo

This week, as the nation prepares to observe the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Roll Call looks back at how Capitol Hill responded to the attacks and how that day’s events changed — and didn’t change — life in Washington.

Then-Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) was chairman of the House Administration Committee on Sept. 11, 2001, and from that post played a central role in dealing with Members’ concerns and overseeing the security upgrades around the Capitol complex in the years following 9/11 and the subsequent anthrax attacks. Below are portions of an interview with Ney conducted by Roll Call’s Lauren W. Whittington regarding his recollections of that day and the events that followed:

“It’s like the Kennedy assassination. I was in third grade and I remember exactly when I heard it. This is the same thing. I was in my Longworth personal office. Brett Palmer, who had worked for me at the time ... he came running in and he turned the TV on and he said a plane’s hit the tower. My first reaction was air traffic controller mistake or something. The second plane, when it crashed in, I said to Brett, ‘This is a terrorist attack.’

I immediately went three floors up to House Administration. We oversaw the security of the Capitol with [Bill] Livingood, the Sergeant-at-Arms. So I went upstairs and [House Administration Staff Director] Neil Volz and [Deputy Staff Director] Channing Nuss were there.

A strange thing happened. Fred Hay, who worked for House Administration, was at a dental appointment and he was late and he was always very conscientious about calling in. I was on the phone with the Sergeant-at-Arms office ... we were talking about going to the high alert of the Capitol. Sara [Salupo] came running in and she was crying and she had a cellphone and she said ‘take this.’ ... It was Fred Hay on the other line and he was coming back from the dental appointment and he was calling in because he was going to be late. And he said to me ... ‘I think this plane is crashing into the Pentagon.’ He could see it.

I immediately said to the Sergeant-at-Arms office, ‘I think a plane is crashing into the Pentagon,’ and they said, ‘It might be a hoax.’ And Fred was yelling, ‘It’s coming in!’ It flew above his car I believe. ... We actually talked about the evacuation [of the Capitol] there on the phone before the plane hit the Pentagon and then it instantly crashed in. ... They said we’re going to evacuate.”

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