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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.
“Yeah, it was terrifying, but that’s what courage is,” Ross said. “John Wayne said it best, I think. Courage is being scared but saddling up and riding anyway.”
“By the time I left, it was very quiet, very orderly.”
Vickie Plunkett’s office normally didn’t turn on its television in the morning.
The TV was for watching activity on the House floor, and until Congress started morning business, it usually stayed off, high in the corner of then-Rep. Solomon Ortiz’s Rayburn Building office.
But the morning the World Trade Center was attacked, Plunkett’s husband called to let her know, and Ortiz’s deputy chief of staff immediately turned the television on, bringing the flaming towers to life on the screen.
But it wasn’t until she was told by her boss to get out, that there might be another plane on the way toward the Capitol, that Plunkett evacuated the office.
“By the time I left, it was very quiet, very orderly,” she said. “Some people waited around to see what was going to happen, saying, ‘Why do I have to leave?’”
Plunkett met up with her husband, who also worked in Rayburn, and headed to a friend’s house to continue work for her office and to watch the news.
“One thing that stuck with me was a lot of people were walking around looking up,” she said of the walk to her friend’s apartment.