This week there will be a lot of retrospectives on 9/11. Few of us who were alive and mature enough to know what was going on will ever forget that infamous day—and the weeks, months and years that followed. It may have been the first time ever that most Americans—and even most of the world’s populatio—witnessed a mass murder on an incomprehensible scale.
My memories of that Tuesday morning are etched forever in my mind and are nearly as vivid now as they were ten years ago. I can see my secretary bursting into my then Virginia office with a look of shock on her face. I can see my staff and I hovered around her desk watching the ghastly events unfold on her computer screen. In these mental pictures I am on the phone, calling my daughter, an intern on nearby Capitol Hill, and barking orders for her to get in the car and drive east—no questions allowed.
I feel the warm tears welling up in my eyes as victims jumped from the high windows of the Trade Towers. I hear the name of a woman I was acquainted with, Barbara Olson, announced as a victim of Flight 77 at the Pentagon. I see our somber procession of clergy just days after the attack, making our way down the hill behind the Navy Annex to an improvised memorial field opposite the charred cavity in the southeast wall of the hulking headquarters of the Defense Department. I can see the shape of a fuselage, two wings, a tail—as if a giant had plunged a cookie-cutter the shape of an airplane into the stone wall. Rescue personnel were still pulling out bodies.