Pols remember 9/11Politico Staff
September 9, 2011
The tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, are seared in Americans’ memories. POLITICO asked a few prominent U.S. figures to share their recollections of that day.
Mayor, New York City
Then a billionaire businessman running for the New York City GOP mayoral nomination, Bloomberg was on a post-primary day vote stroll to his campaign headquarters with New York Daily News columnist Michael Daly.
“One of the things we talked about was, it was a crisp, clear fall day. Then I went inside, had a cup of coffee and started reading the newspapers. And somebody said, ‘A small plane had hit the World Trade Center,’” Bloomberg said.
Like everyone else, Bloomberg, a licensed pilot, was initially mystified when he saw the carnage on TV. “I looked up, and you could see the gash across the building from one end to another. And I said, ‘That’s not a small plane, that’s got to be an airliner.’ Did I think that it was deliberate, terrorism? No, nor did anybody else.”
Then-House speaker (R-Ill.)
Hastert got to the television in his Capitol office just in time to see the second plane hit the World Trade Center. He immediately tried to call Vice President Dick Cheney on a secure phone. But Cheney was unreachable.
And then Hastert saw the smoke. It was curling around the Washington Monument. At that moment, he made a decision: The Capitol was shutting down.
“So next thing I knew, I was in a tunnel between the Capitol and the Rayburn building and stuck in the back of a Chevy Suburban,” Hastert recalled. “I’m shooting out of there, and I’m going across south of Washington heading for Andrews Air Force Base.” When he got to Andrews, he reached Cheney, who told him, “You’re going to an undisclosed location for the day, and we’ll be in touch.”
“Subsequently, I was on a helicopter to an undisclosed location, going across Washington — nothing on the streets,” Hastert said. He continued, “I went from a peace-time speaker — the president went from a peace-time president, worried about transportation and education and health care and all those other things we do — to a wartime speaker. Basically, the president and I made a pact that we weren’t going to let this thing happen again.”
Rep. Peter King
The big event King had planned that day was a stop at the White House barbecue with his wife, Rosemary.
But as the Long Island congressman awaited her arrival in Washington, King got a panicked phone call from his daughter. Her husband’s office windows directly faced the World Trade Center, where an airplane had slammed into the North Tower seconds before.
At first, King thought it was an accident. Then, as he watched the second plane hit the tower live on television, he had no doubt that it was an act of terror.
“It didn’t really hit me as to how bad it was going to be … it makes no sense now,” he recalled. “During the afternoon, I started getting phone calls from friends of mine saying this guy was killed, that guy was killed. That’s when it started to hit home.”