‘We were all stunned and horrified.’ Sen. Debbie Stabenow reflects on 9/11 20th anniversary

The terrorist attack happened during her first year in office.
People flee the falling South Tower of the World Trade Center on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. ...
People flee the falling South Tower of the World Trade Center on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)(Amy Sancetta | AP)
Published: Sep. 3, 2021 at 10:32 AM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan recalls being “stunned” and “horrified” when she first realized America was under attack on September 11, 2001.

“I was in my car going to a meeting a few blocks from the Capitol and got a call from my staff that a small plane had hit one of the World Trade Center Towers which made no sense to us,” said Sen. Stabenow. “How could that happen?”

By the time she reached the hotel where her meeting was being held, Stabenow says the full scope of what was happening began to sink in.

“There were people surrounding televisions and I saw the second plane hit, and I knew it was not a small plane and an accident.”

Then she says cellphones went down, and people broke out in a panic. As she tried to find a way to communicate with her staff, Stabenow says she realized the attack was continuing to unfold in D.C.

“I remember going outside, and it looked like something from a movie with people sort of stopping in their cars. Cars were all jammed up, and people were getting out of their cars running. I saw smoke coming from the other side of the Capitol. We didn’t know what it was at the time.”

What she was seeing was billowing smoke from a plane crashing into the Pentagon.

The Capitol was evacuated in the morning, but later that day after connecting with her staff and colleagues, Stabenow says congressional leaders responded to the attack with a message.

“To go back to the Capitol in the evening and make it very clear that the United States government was still operating.”

So gathering on the steps of the Capitol, they let their voices be heard by singing “God Bless America.”

Stabenow says this display of unity was a stunning moment, and in its wake a number of things changed including the restructuring of homeland security and money tracking laws.

She now says her biggest concern is for Americans to be confident in our democracy and government especially with the violence she says we’re seeing from across the nation due to division.

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