September 11 Digital Archive: XML Document

Story: I never made it to my job at the Library of Congress that day, and in fact, almost witnessed the attack on the Pentagon. Rather taking the Metro to work as usual, I had gone first to a press check on an exhibit brochure at a printer in Alexandria, Virginia. I heard on the radio about the first plane to hit the Trade Center while driving there. When I got there, everyone was gathered around the television after the second plane hit, and we realized that the event was a terrorist act. Even so, I was driving into work, not thinking of danger in Washinton. I saw a cloud of black smoke on the horizon and a frantic police car tried to go around me. Then I heard the news of the Pentagon attack on the radio. If I had been 10 minutes earlier, I would have seen the plane hit the Pentagon.

As I drove into Washington, my route took me in sight of the Pentagon. I saw smoke pouring from the building, but the damage was on the side away from me, so I didn't see it until I drove by several days later. The gravity and danger of the situation did not hit me immediately because I was focused on getting to work.. But as I neared Capitol Hill, I was stopped by a police barricade and told to leave at once. Then I realized that the Capitol was a likely target for more attacks. Driving home, I heard frightening, incorrect, radio reports of attacks in other parts of the city. As I crossed the Potomac toward Alexandria, I looked in the direction of Washington, and all the monuments were enveloped in smoke. That, coupled with the radio reports, lead me to believe that the city was under a major attack. I was relieved to reach home safely.

Memory:Seeing the cloud of dark, thick, smoke pouring up from the Pentagon and knowing that many people must have died and been injured in the attack. Also getting phone calls from two friends in England expressing sympathy. While I listened to media reports, I ironed, something I seldom do and don't like to do. It seemed a way of establishing some control and order to a crazy day.

Affects:Personally, I believe that if the passengers had not fought the hijackers and crashed the fourth plane in Pennsylvania, I would have been killed on September 11. I was very close to the Capitol in my car about the time that plane would have hit. Subsequent reports have confirmed that that plane was meant for the Capitol. I am grateful to those people for saving my life and that of many others who work on Capitol Hill. Nationally, I am disturbed about what the events have done to our country.The US lost a kind of innocence that day. Not having had a war on our soil since 1865, and no foreign attacks since 1814, we felt secure in a way we never can be again. The sense of fear of more attacks, especially in Washington and on Capitol Hill makes daily life extremely stressful. Riding the Metro to work has an element of risk to it now. The lovely area around the Capitol is now a maze of barriers and crawling with police. Also I am saddened by the backlash against Muslims and Arabs that the attack caused. And I dislike the vengefulness and defensiveness that I feel has resulted in actions like the proposed war with Iraq.

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