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Capitol Reflects on 9/11 Anniversary

Flags on the Capitol grounds flew at half-staff Friday. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Around 10 a.m. Friday morning a plane flew in the sky to the west of the Capitol, a poignant reminder of the tragic morning 14 years ago when planes became deadly weapons in the hands of terrorists.  

At 8:46 a.m., the moment the first plane hit the north tower of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, the Capitol grounds observed a moment of silence. Flags around the Capitol complex were lowered to half-staff to honor those who lost their lives in New York City, Pennsylvania and the D.C. area. Just off the Rotunda, a wreath with red, white and blue flowers stood next to the bronze plaque memorializing the passengers and crew members who lost their lives on Flight 93, which was directed toward D.C., but crashed into a Pennsylvania field when passengers and crew overcame the terrorists piloting the plane.  

"In memory of the passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93, whose brave sacrifice on September 11, 2001, not only saved countless lives but may have saved the U.S. Capitol from destruction," reads the inscription on the bronze plaque.  

That the Capitol may have been the plane's target was not lost on the lawmakers reflecting on that tragic day.

"I remember trying to go about my morning. I remember when everything changed," Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement Friday. "My story could be much different, if not for the heroes on Flight 93.  We know they saved countless lives and quite possibly the Capitol itself."

Other lawmakers issued statements and social media posts remembering the victims of the terrorist attacks. Memories of 9/11 also permeated the debate on the House floor as lawmakers considered a resolution to approve of the nuclear deal with Iran, with Republicans arguing the deal would bolster Iran's nuclear capabilities, and many Democrats saying the deal, while not perfect, would weaken those capabilities.

"Now I want you to let your mind drift back to a morning 14 years ago, on a morning very eerily like today, where America awoke and some Americans were going off to work in the World Trade Center," Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., said on the House floor, standing next to a poster with pictures of the burning World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the flight 93 crash. "Some Americans were going off to work in the Pentagon and some Americans' destinations that they thought they were going to get to."

"Never again! Never again! Never again!" Kelly later roared on the floor. "Let those words echo forever and ever, not only in your ears but in your hearts. Do not cave in! Do not sacrifice the safety, the security and the stability of the 330 million Americans for the legacy of one man. That is not who we are!"  

With Kelly's emotional speech implying that a nuclear Iran could lead to another attack on the United States, one New York Democrat stood up to say such imagery was inappropriate for the day's debate.  

"I like Mike, I admire him. But I think he did a disservice to the House and this debate by bringing up the issue of 9/11," Rep. Joseph Crowley of New York, the Democratic Caucus vice chairman, said on the floor. "My emotions always stir on this day. Fourteen years ago, I knew people who died that day. My cousin died. My friends died. I don't need to be reminded of that. But it will not cloud my decision-making on this important issue."  

Lawmakers will be confronted by the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks next week. More than 100 first responders and former Comedy Central Host Jon Stewart  will head to Capitol Hill Wednesday to lobby lawmakers to extend health programs for those first responders recovering from their service on 9/11.  

And this is not the first time first responders will be making their case on the Hill. In June, New York firefighters attended a hearing on the programs , and discussed the diseases contracted at Ground Zero that they are still struggling with today. The health programs are set to expire at the end of September.  

Related: NYC Firefighters Flock to Capitol, Fighting for 9/11 Health Program See photos, follies, HOH Hits and Misses and more at Roll Call's new video site. Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.