Former Rep. Earl Pomeroy recalled the solidarity 9/11 provoked: That night we gathered on the east steps of the Capitol. It was Republicans and Democrats, the House and the Senate it was unlike anything Ive ever experienced in my life.
“Most of the people who didn’t live in D.C. had already evacuated. It was eerily quiet — a ghost town,” he said.
The next morning, still unsure, Chao headed to work and pushed the attacks out of his mind.
“I was busy because we had to get back to work,” he said. “I never questioned it. It was just the thing to do. We had to get back to work and get on with our lives.”
Rebecca Ross “It was terrifying, but that’s what courage is.”
Well, it got then-Rep. Gary Condit off the front page of the newspapers.
That’s the silver lining Rebecca Ross, currently a staffer on the House Armed Services Committee, remembers from the events of 9/11. As an executive assistant for then-Rep. Joel Hefley (R- Colo.), her office was down the hall from Condit, a California Democrat who had been in the news all summer for his affair with a missing intern who was later found murdered.
“On Sept. 10, I said to our press secretary, ‘What’s it going to take to get Gary Condit off the front page? God only knows ...’” she recalled.
And then, on Sept. 11, America suffered a terrorist attack, and talk of Condit was no more.
That morning, Ross had carpooled into her office early with her father, who also worked on the Hill. They chatted about the weather and the fact that a celebrity had planned to appear at the Capitol. In the office, she sorted mail and prepared Hefley’s schedule for the rest of the day.
“We were watching the news, and I just thought the first plane was an accident, that the pilot was having a heart attack,” she said. But when the second plane hit, it was obvious that America was under attack.
Hefley, who was running late, called the office and told staff to leave. Ross stayed and waited for him, and when he arrived he immediately sat down at his desk and started making calls. They likely would’ve stayed there if not for a call Ross received from her father.
“Hey, there’s been an attack,” her father said. “Your brother just called, and he watched a plane hit the Pentagon.”
Still, Ross wanted to stay, unsure of what that meant for the Capitol. But her father insisted they drive home.
As they drove with the windows open, they heard rumors float in and out of the car. Someone said the State Department had been hit. Phones weren’t working, and she didn’t have a BlackBerry.
“We were getting as much information as we could; we were just drinking it in through the fire hose,” she said. She got home and watched the news while she supported her boss for the rest of the afternoon.
And on Sept. 12, she didn’t for a second consider calling in sick.
Rep. Bill Cassidy has his blood drawn by Alesha Barbour during a free hepatitis screening in the Rayburn House Office Building hosted by the Congressional Viral Hepatitis Caucus to recognize "National Viral Hepatitis Testing Day."
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