I am a disabled American veteran who served in the United States Air Force under my favorite Commander-in-Chief – Ronald Reagan. At the end of August 2001, I was in New York City for ALEC, the much-maligned American Legislative Exchange Council, the wining and dining paid for by major lobbyists. My wife was with me. It was my first and only time to New York City and I was there as Director of Policy for the Arizona Speaker of the House.
During the visit, my wife caught three Broadway plays, we stayed at the Marriott on Times Square, cruised the harbor, dined in the Rainbow Room atop the Rockefeller Center and dined in the Windows of the World restaurant at the top of one of the World Trade Centers. The food and decor were surprisingly not that good there, but the scenery was awesome. We looked all about the city.
On September 11th, less than two weeks later, I came into the Capitol for my morning meeting with the Speaker and our staff to go over policy. The meetings were usually friendly and casual as we all liked each other – a rare thing in politics. I came in and everyone was disturbed, watching the small 14 inch monitor up on the wall that was rarely used. The first plane had just hit a tower.
We were all starting to speculate, wondering if it were an accident, when we saw live as second plane hit the other tower. Then we knew. One plane could be an accident, two was terrorism.
Soon we received the call that the Capitol was to be secured and all “non-essential” staff sent home. I spent the day with the Speaker and one or two others holding down the fort so to speak and coordinating security efforts. The Speaker of the House is responsible for the entire Capitol Complex under Arizona law.
Honestly, growing up abused, then abandoned, I don’t usually emotionally react much to crisis. I have walls. If I had not just been to New York City and actually eaten in the towers 12 days earlier, I don’t know how I would have reacted. At first it was surreal, then I felt numb, then I wanted revenge.
Our photos came back the next week from our New York trip. (Yes, back then we still developed our disposable camera film). Nearly every shot had the Twin Towers in them. We never looked at the photos again. I don’t even know where they are or if we still have them. It is strange to me that it has been so long, as it seems like yesterday. Our new voters turning 18 were in Kindergarten when it happened. Did the Boston Marathon terror event effect them? I don’t know.
It seems each generation faces its own call to arms. Taxation without representation, Barbary Pirates, impressment of American sailors by the British, Remember the Alamo, slavery, Defeat the Hun, Remember Pearl Harbor, Defeat Fascism, the Cold War and the Berlin Wall, Gulf of Tonkin, and 9-11.
Maybe it’s good our new generation is so far untouched. Hopefully, we can skip a generation from having a rallying call the carries with it death, suffering and fear.