by Heather Weininger, WRTL Executive Director
It’s hard to believe that it has been 20 years since the horrific events of September 11th.
Like many of you, I can remember almost every detail of that day like it was yesterday.
The skies were bright blue that day in Washington, D.C. Not a cloud in the sky as I headed into my office for a typical Tuesday of meetings with constituents and staff, and answering inquiries that were coming in.
At the time, I was working for Congressman Mark Green from Wisconsin’s 8th Congressional District. Our office was already running for the day with our boss off at a committee hearing, staff meeting with interested parties in the office, and the rest of us working on reading legislation and writing letters to constituents.
As usual, we always had TVs tuned into a news station in our office. Back then, we didn’t have Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, or even smartphones. We stayed informed by watching the 24-hour news channels.
When the first plane hit, we watched in horror, thinking: “What a horrible accident.” Then, the unthinkable happened, and the second plane crashed into the second tower. At this point, we all knew that this was no accident.
It was also when those of us in the office weren’t sure what was happening around us. As our boss headed back to the office, there were messages that the National Mall was on fire. Mind you, our office was directly across the street from the United States Capitol. The Mall, just beyond us.
While trying to sort out what was happening, most of us reached out to our family back home, letting them know we were okay. But unfortunately, as I spoke with my parents, the line went dead.
In just minutes, Capitol Police officers began evacuating our building. Tragically, the Pentagon was the next target with a direct impact on the building.
As I drove to my apartment, fear consumed me.
The tragedy of that day, as we watched the towers collapse, not knowing the truly horrific nature of the number of lives lost, will always stay with me. All we could do was pray and be thankful for our safety.
Thousands of lives were lost in just moments. These people were doing just what we were all doing – living our lives—going to work, going on vacation, going home to see loved ones. We still mourn the loss of those innocent lives, 20 years later.
The days that followed brought out the humanity in every American. We smiled at strangers we passed on the streets. We gathered outside of the Capitol to sing patriotic songs. People from all different religious backgrounds prayed together.
For better or worse, major world events like 9/11 shape our history, our narrative. The unity we felt in the following days was something we shared with our fellow man; it was collective.
When we remember the lives lost 20 years ago on September 11th, we recognize the value of life and each life lost. Let today serve as a reminder that all life is worth protecting and should never be taken for granted.