The Courant asked several key political figures how Sept. 11 unfolded for them. Below is an edited transcript of a recollection by former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, as told to Staff Writer Daniela Altimari.
I had just completed a speech to a group of veterans on the importance of intelligence and national security. I had come upstairs and in my office a TV was on and a staffer said an airplane just struck the World Trade Center. I called in my chief of staff … and told him to send everybody home now. I tried to call my daughter in New York, her apartment was a few blocks from the World Trade Center and it was her habit to roller blade around the center then go to work around the noon hour. I couldn't reach her.
Then something rattled the windows behind me..I saw smoke coming up and the next thing I saw [were] police officers on the rooftops of the Rayburn building [a House office building southwest of the Capitol] ... a police officer came down the hall yelling at the top of his lungs to get out of the building, get out of the building.
Later that day ... members of Congress were called to police buildings on the Senate side for a briefing. Sen. Lieberman was there. We were told leadership was going to make a brief statement on the steps of the Capitol ... Joe and I walked over together. There were about 75 to 100 members there and we silently and quietly took position on the steps. When the statements were over, someone began singing, perhaps extemporaneously, “God Bless America'' and we all joined in ... that to me was one of the high points of my Congressional career.