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Plunkett said the next day she refused to give in to the anxiety that caused so many people to keep their eyes turned to the sky on 9/11. She went back to work without a second thought, she said, because she refused to be afraid.
“The point of terrorism is to cause people to live in fear,” she said. “If they can cause you to live in fear, they win. And I refuse to live in fear.”
“It wasn’t so much fear, more confusion.”
Debra Wada worked on the House Armed Services Committee on 9/11, a go-to committee for Members seeking an explanation for the attacks that day.
She, like most of her co-workers, watched the attacks on the news but knew little more than what the television was telling her.
“We were getting calls from Member offices — ‘Do you know what’s going on?’ they were asking,” she remembered.
The committee staffers didn’t have much to tell people, but they weren’t evacuated until a few hours after the attacks, so they continued to answer those calls. Wada remembered seeking answers that day, a sense of inquiry more than fear.
“It wasn’t so much fear, more confusion — what potentially was the source of the attacks? We knew we were going to have to explain this stuff to the Members,” she said.
Although the rest of the day was just as confusing as the morning, Wada knew she had to be back at work the next morning, to try to give answers she didn’t have to the Members who continued to call her office throughout the week.
“We knew we were going to have to respond, probably militarily, so I had to be at work,” she said.
“Everyone else is going to be strong and go back and work.”
For Brenda Muniz, 9/11 means comfortable flats.
She decided she would never again walk two hours home in black pumps, as she did that day, and for weeks after she’d bring an extra pair of shoes.
“Just in case anything would happen, I’d have comfortable shoes to walk in,” said the legislative assistant for then-Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-Texas).
But Muniz hadn’t dressed for an attack on the U.S. that day. She arrived at work after the first plane had hit the World Trade Center and was barely contemplating what was then thought to be a freak accident. But then the second tower was hit. And then the Pentagon.
“At that time it was clear that, OK, this isn’t an accident,” she said.
Rodriguez had plans to go to a news conference that morning, which wasn’t canceled until the Pentagon was hit. He stayed behind with a few staffers while Muniz and her colleagues left the building. They went to Pete’s Diner on Second Street Southeast, and Muniz sipped a Diet Coke while the events sank in.
“There was a lot of commotion, a lot of talk,” she said. “One of my colleagues started crying.”
Pete’s was crowded with staffers staying on the Hill as they waited to figure out whether they’d be returning to their offices. But with the entire Capitol complex evacuated and locked down, Muniz and her colleagues decided to head home.