On 9/11 Anniversary, A Rare Moment Of Congressional Unity

U.S. lawmakers gather at the Capitol to observe the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks // John Bennett

There were no partisan allegations, nor any personal attacks for a few moments on Sept. 11 on Capitol Hill.

Amid one of the most bitterly partisan periods in American political history, U.S. lawmakers rarely miss an opportunity to trash their foes.
But as members of both chambers descended the steps on the east side of the ornate white building, the partisan bickering of the last few years gave way to a somber hush.

House and Senate leaders saluted the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the disaster’s 11th anniversary, as well as the families of the dead, police and firefighters, and the U.S. military.

Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate’s top Republican, spoke of the collective “horrifying realization” all Americans felt on that late-summer day in 2001 when they understood what had happened in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

The Senate minority leader said there were questions around the globe about how the 9/11 attacks would affect America.

“Would it weaken us [abroad]? Would it weaken us at home?” McConnell recalled. “Eleven years later, we can say with certainty and pride…that
9/11 revealed greatness in America.” That greatness was evident just moments after each attack, when first responders rushed toward the rubble, he said.

An American flag flies over the U.S. Capitol at half staff, honoring the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks // John Bennett

As summer’s lingering cicadas buzzed in trees not far from the Capitol steps, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, the House’s top Democrat, urged Americans to “never forget those who perished.”

With her many of her fellow lawmakers assembled behind her clutching small American flags, Pelosi called on Americans to “honor” the families of the dead.

Despite the “images of destruction” from the attacks, the 9/11 attacks “never diminished America’s sense of unity,” Pelosi said.

Minutes later, the lawmakers headed back up the tall Capitol steps and returned to work. It remains to be seen whether the rare moment of unity among the lawmakers will allow the seeds of a deal to avoid $500 billion in national defense spending cuts to begin growing.

John T. Bennett

John T. Bennett

Bennett is the Editor of Defense News' CongressWatch channel. He has a Masters degree in Global Security Studies from Johns Hopkins University.
John T. Bennett