Anniversary Blog Day 2 (click here to read day one)
On September 11, 2001, exactly one year after I began my Capitol Hill career, I was in the car with Monty on my way to work when we heard on the radio that a plane crashed into the World Trade Center. As we parked in the garage at the Longworth House Office Building right across the street from the Capitol, the second plane crashed into tower 2. When we got to the office, Rick was glued to the TV. Michelle and Krister were working and being very serious while Meeks was attempting to secure a land line to south Georgia.
Monty’s mom called to tell her to get the heck out, and I went into full on panic mode, which became the norm for me for every future terrorist scare or drill. So Monty and I grabbed a six pack each of diet coke and headed for the garage, only they weren’t letting anyone get their cars. There were too many people in the streets. It was chaos, people running around everywhere. Once we saw all that, we headed back to the office to tell everyone to get out that it looked really bad. The capitol police officer at the door almost didn’t let us back in, he said the building was being evacuated, and we said – really? That’s funny because no one evacuated our office, we left on our own. So we went back in any way to tell our office friends to get the heck out. While we were back, we heard a low rumble in the distance. This was the Pentagon being hit. But we didn’t know this yet.
The last thing we heard on the news before we exited the building the second time was that all planes had been grounded, there was a fire on the Mall, a car bomb at the State Department and a fire at the Supreme Court. (none of that was true, except for the planes being grounded). So we took off our heels and started making a run for it… 12 blocks down Independence to our homes.
Then we heard a plane.
All planes were supposed to be grounded, so everyone around us hit the deck. The streets were full of people trying to get as far away from the Capitol as possible. And no one knew what this plane was, we heard it but couldn’t see it. Then there was a huge BOOM.
This was a sonic boom and the plane we heard was a fighter jet, allegedly heading to stand off with flight 93. At the time, no one knew what the boom was… one lady with her child hit the ground and covered her kid with her body. At this point, we really started to run. We ran into Julie at that point and we were praying, out loud, as we ran. I am pretty sure that was the scariest moment of my life. We just didn’t know what was going on.
Once we finally made it home I ran back to my efficiency to grab a few things and head back over to Monty, Julie, and Lauren’s house. While I was inside, I managed to get a call out (on my land line) to my dad. I told him I was scared and I wanted to leave DC for good. I had only been there for one year and I wanted to cut my losses and leave. I will never forget J.D.’s response.
He told me to stay where I was and serve my country. He asked me,
“What would Saxby do if all of his staff left right now? You need to stay and serve your country. God knew this would happen when he called you there a year ago. So don’t think that because this happened that you’re not supposed to be there.”
WOW. I have an amazing dad.
After I calmed down, I went up on the rooftop deck of my apartment building. I was about 4 or 5 miles from the Pentagon “as the crow flies” and I could see the smoke billowing on the horizon. For the first time, Capitol Hill was silent. No cars on the street, no people, I didn’t even hear a bird chirp. Deadly silence.
So I went back in to my apartment and tried to get online to start sending emails and instant messages reporting out what I knew to friends and loved ones. At one point Katie and Ryan stopped by, neither could get to heir cars and lived too far to walk. They later left to meet some friends at the bar. The bar was the LAST PLACE I wanted to be. I wanted to be on my knees praying nothing else would happen.
That night, I couldn’t stay by myself. So I called my boss, the one who knows my aunt, and asked if I could crash in their basement. So I packed a bag and walked down to Carol and Krister’s house for the night, trying to get enough rest to get the courage to go back to the office the next day.