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.
Many of the Capitol Police officers who weren't stationed on the Hill on Sept. 11, 2001, were in training, preparing for an upcoming rating and certification evaluation and the impending International Monetary Fund demonstrations.
Officer Amy Thompson was at Anacostia Park, taking a break from civil disturbance training, when she saw the attack on the World Trade Center on television.
"One of our officials came and told us we needed to get back to the Hill and to jump in whoever's car you get to first and head back," she said.
Thompson arrived back at the Capitol and was put to work directing traffic. It was unlike any traffic work she had done before — all five lanes on North Capitol Street were heading out of the city, and no one was honking or asking for directions; they all just wanted out.
She remembers the eerie absence of taxis and buses on the street, another implication that something was wrong.
"I remember it going a lot easier than I thought it was going to be," she said. "I think people were so scared [that] they just wanted you to tell them anything."
Even though she wasn't sure what was going on, Thompson continued to direct people, offering them as much information as she could when asked by panicked passers-by.
"They teach us to have a certain level of command presence, and so no matter if you were in uniform or out of uniform, you have to come off like you know what you're doing," she said.
Thompson spent much of the rest of the day as a traffic officer, but many of the officers called back to the Capitol didn't have as much to do that day. Police officers knew they were needed, but with all the uncertainty, they weren't sure where.
Officer Mike Dunphy was doing a gun test fire when he was called back to the Capitol, and he remembers walking back with a sense of unease.
"People were running everywhere, and until the Air Force came overhead — that's when I felt safe," he said.
He wasn't sure what was going on, as it was nearly impossible to get much information out of the police radio system.
"Whenever something big happens, you don't try to get on the radio. You just get where you need [to be]," he said.
Lois Lerner, director of exempt organizations for the IRS, arrives for a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the investigation of the IRS' targeting of political groups. Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right to not testify and caused a protest from some committee members when she offered an opening statement and engaged in dialogue with members before invoking the right.
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