Historical Highlights

The Singing of “God Bless America” on September 11, 2001

September 11, 2001
The Singing of “God Bless America” on September 11, 2001 Collection of U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
On the day after the 2001 terrorist attacks on Washington and New York, House staff found themselves back in the Capitol, badly shaken and in need of solace. One House staffer reported that she and others in the Clerk’s office began making memorial ribbons such as this one, ultimately distributing more than a thousand of them to Members and staff in the weeks that followed.
On this date, after evacuating the Capitol earlier in the day, roughly 150 Members of Congress came together in the evening on the building's East Front steps to convey the resolve of the nation during a time of great tragedy. Senators stood by Representatives, Democrats next to Republicans, and the leadership of both houses gathered as a symbol of strength for a country shocked and saddened by the day's barbaric acts of terrorism. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert of Illinois addressed the Nation: “When America suffers, and when people perpetrate acts against this country, we as a Congress and a government stand united and we stand together to fight this evil threat. Those who brought forth this evil deed will pay the price.” After Members observed a moment of silence over the day’s tragedies, those assembled broke into an impromptu rendition of “God Bless America.” The image of the Congress standing strong and united became an important source of inspiration in the days following the attack. The outpouring of patriotism reverberated around the world. “One of the most poignant images as the symbols of US economic and military power burned was the spontaneous singing of God Bless America by members of Congress,” observed a reporter with The Australian, one of Australia’s leading national newspapers. “They stood shaken and tearful on the steps of the Capitol, their love of nation and all that it symbolizes plain for the world to see.” During his September 20, 2001, Joint Session address, President George W. Bush applauded the Members who embodied the country’s tenacity. “I thank the Congress for its leadership at such an important time,” he remarked. “All of America was touched on the evening of the tragedy to see Republicans and Democrats joined together on the steps of this Capitol singing ‘God Bless America.’”

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