Schakowsky Statement on the 20th Anniversary of the September 11th Attacks
EVANSTON – Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Senior Chief Deputy Whip and Chair of the Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee, issued the following statement on the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attacks:
“I was in the women’s gym in the House of Representatives when I was called to the TV and saw that a plane had hit one of the Twin Towers in New York. ‘A terrible accident’, I thought. When the second plane hit, I knew it was deliberate – the United States was being attacked.
“The next hour was chaotic. No announcements were made. No alarms were heard. Back in my office I could see the smoke rising from the Pentagon out of my window. My staff and I were glued to the TV and the horrifying and unthinkable images. After what seemed like a long time, but probably wasn’t, the Capitol Police came running up and down the halls warning everyone to evacuate. Not knowing what was next, I said we had to leave the Capitol complex. My staff and I piled into one car and drove some miles away to the apartment of my Chief of Staff’s mother, and spent most of the rest of that day watching the devastating news, a combination of heroism and tragedy.
“The days that followed were somewhat of a blur. I remember standing on the Capitol steps with my colleagues robustly singing God Bless America. Later we learned that the plane likely heading to the Capitol or White House was brought down by amazingly courageous and selfless passengers who sacrificed their own lives to save our seat of democracy – and perhaps even my own life. I am forever grateful.
“I remember that Rep. Joe Crowley’s cousin, a fire fighter, lost his life racing into the building along with many other unforgettable heroes. President Bush and other political and civic leaders rushed to the site to mourn the dead, and offer help and words of inspiration. Hundreds of workers from around the country travelled to New York to help during the days and weeks after the attack.
“Little did we know then how many of those firefighters and workers who dug through the rubble looking for body parts and cleaning up the mess would themselves become sick, and some die, from the toxic exposure. Shamefully, it took far too long for our government to acknowledge their suffering and begin to compensate these heroes of 9-11.
“On the whole, our country came to together in the face of this unprecedented attack. Nations around the world expressed their solidarity and offered assistance.
“But I also worried about some signs of division at home. That next day, September 12, I wrote, ‘I represent a very diverse district that includes people of all races, nationalities and religions. All of them are horrified today. But some - Muslims, Arab Americans and others- have another concern. That they, our friends and fellow American residents, will become the targets of anger and frustration. This is a time when, in tribute to the values of tolerance that is at the heart of our democracy we must embrace one another. Turning against each other will only be a victory for the perpetrators of this evil plot.’
“Sadly, there were attacks on people who looked Middle Eastern, wore turban or hijabs or tradition clothing. A cab driver was severely assaulted. Women expressed being fearful of taking their children to school.
“The following weekend I invited community and faith leaders and neighbors to join in a Solidarity March down Devon Avenue, the heart of an international marketplace. Over 100 people, carrying American flags, walked arm in arm down the street to declare that we would not let this disaster separate us. It was a moment of inspiration and hope and unity. Something we need even more of today!”