AFP: Reflecting on 9/11, Twenty Years Later

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It’s been 20 years to the day since one of the most harrowing moments in United States history: the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Today, we pause to remember those who lost their lives, and to honor the first responders and military members who put their lives on the line following the attacks.

I wanted to share my personal story from that day with you, both the terror I felt and the bravery and unity that followed.

I was working at the Capitol that day. I remember sitting in on a security briefing about the horror that had just unfolded at the World Trade Center, when all of a sudden the security briefer stopped, pointed out the window and said “oh my God, look.” Smoke was billowing through the air from the direction of the Pentagon.

That moment, and the urgent evacuation that followed, is one of the most terrifying memories of my life. The heroes on Flight 93 likely saved my life, and the lives of countless others at the Capitol that day.

Watching people from all walks of life come together and help each other out afterward is one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever seen.

I tried to do my part, however I could. Cell phones were not working in the area, so my roommates and I opened our doors to any strangers who needed a landline phone to get ahold of loved ones and reassure them they were safe. Later that day, back at the Capitol, Members of Congress from all over the political spectrum came together, arm-in-arm and sang “God Bless America.”

The horrible memories from early in that day will always be with me and shake me to my core when I think about them. But I also hope this anniversary serves as an opportunity for us to come together to solve our country’s biggest challenges, and remember that there is more that unites us than divides us.