Rep. Jim Clyburn reflects on 20th anniversary of 9/11

Published: Sep. 10, 2021 at 9:15 AM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - It’s 20 years since the terror attacks on September 11th and members of Congress who were in office on that day are reflecting on this somber milestone.

South Carolina leader – House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn – shares his memories and message moving forward.

The morning of September 11th, 2001, Congressman Jim Clyburn was meeting with fellow lawmakers on Capitol Hill. When news spread through the halls of Congress that two planes had crashed into the World Trade Center, Clyburn and his colleagues rushed outside, only to encounter another attack close to home.

“All of a sudden we heard this big boom and someone thought it was a bomb,” said Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.).

It was a third plane, striking the Pentagon, just a few miles away. Evacuees piled into Clyburn’s home nearby, until U.S. Capitol Police transferred them to a hideout for the rest of the day. A fourth plane – heading toward DC – was taken down in a Pennsylvania field, by heroes of United Flight 93.

”If that plane had succeeded, there’s no telling what would’ve happened that day. Certainly the conference room that I was in probably would’ve been annihilated,” said Clyburn.

In the aftermath, Clyburn recalls lawmakers visiting the Pentagon to the remember the lives of those lost that day, including the son of a high school classmate. He also remembers leaders plunging into the war on terror.

“We certainly didn’t get it right in Iraq and Afghanistan, as we’re finding out now,” said Clyburn.

Clyburn recalls then-Republican President George W. Bush attending their annual Democratic party retreat. He worries about the growing divisions in this country that weren’t apparent 20 years ago.

“Every great power has disintegrated from within. We were unified against the perpetrators of 9-11. I’m not too sure you can get that kind of unity today,” said Clyburn.

Clyburn says one of the other major changes after 9-11 is he and other members began using Blackberry mobile phones. In his view, these digital devices led to less face to face interactions and a coarsening of the culture on Capitol Hill.

Photojournalist/Editor Tyler Smith contributed to this report.

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