Whereas: Stories from the People’s House

Edition for Educators—September 11, 2001

Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania/tiles/non-collection/9/9-8-ShanksvilleMemorial-RollCall.xml Image used with permission by Douglas Graham, Roll Call newspaper On the first anniversary of September 11, the town of Shanksville, Pennsylvania, hosted a ceremony honoring the passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93, who overthrew the terrorists and prevented an attack on the U.S. Capitol.
As the worst terrorist attack in United States history unfolded on the morning of September 11, 2001, federal officials, lawmakers, and congressional staff took unprecedented steps to maintain government operations and protect the House of Representatives and the people on the Capitol campus.

Amid fear that Capitol Hill had been targeted by terrorists, Capitol Police ordered the campus to evacuate, telling employees to “Start running!” Some staff members made it home, while others joined friends and colleagues at nearby apartments, glued to their televisions trying to make sense of what happened. Later that evening, lawmakers returned to the Capitol and held a press conference on the East Front steps. The world watched as a bipartisan group of Members and Senators broke into an impromptu chorus of “God Bless America.”

The next day, Representatives began crafting a response to the national tragedy, debating new security measures for both Capitol Hill and the nation. The legislative solutions they developed in the subsequent weeks began to reshape everyday life in the nation’s capital and in communities across the country.

The following oral histories, blogs, highlights, records, and collection items related to September 11 shed light on the day of the attacks, the legislative response of the House, and the country’s new security and safety measures. They also offer reflections on the era that followed. Together, they help tell the House’s story of September 11, 2001.

Providing Comfort on September 11, 2001/tiles/non-collection/9/9-8-comfort-RollCall.xml Image used with permission by Douglas Graham, Roll Call newspaper As he evacuated the Capitol, House Chaplain Father Daniel Coughlin comforted Representative Howard Coble of North Carolina and a House employee as they walked across the Capitol lawn.

New Oral History Transcripts

House Journal on the Legislative Day of September 11, 2001/tiles/non-collection/9/9-8-Journal-Clerk.xml Document used with permission of the Clerk of the House Hand-written page from the 107th Congress (2001-2003) House Journal Ledger, dated the legislative day of September 11, 2001.
To commemorate the events of September 11, 2001, the Office of the Historian conducted a series of interviews with former Representatives, House officials, and employees in 2011. For the twentieth anniversary, the office published a majority of those transcripts, available here.

The Day

Unique Circumstances: A Look at the House Journal on September 11, 2001
A study of the Journal entry on September 11 provides a window into the unique parliamentary actions that occurred that day.

House Pages Evacuate
Tyler Roger shares his memories as a House Page on the morning of the attacks.

Tyler Rogers, Page, U.S. House of Representatives Interview recorded May 5, 2011

Singing of “God Bless America” on September 11, 2001
On the evening of September 11, Members of Congress gathered on the Capitol’s East Front steps for a press conference which turned into an impromptu rendition of “God Bless America.”

Congressional Leaders Meet with the President after the Attacks/tiles/non-collection/9/9-8-president-GWBL.xml Photo by Eric Draper, Courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library In the days following the September 11 attacks, President George W. Bush and members of his cabinet met with congressional leaders at the White House.

Reaction & Response

Taking the Steps: Unity and Recovery After 9/11
After September 11, congressional offices launched recovery efforts to strengthen community relationships, distribute resources, and connect with other congressional offices.

September 12, 2001: “We All Went Back to Work”
For many employees of the U.S. Capitol, September 12th meant a return to work—but it was far from business as usual.

Having a Purpose
Rayne Lykes recalls the impromptu effort to make red, white, and blue ribbons for Capitol Hill staff.

Rayne Lykes, Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives Interview recorded March 28, 2012

The House of Representatives Responds to the September 11 Attacks
The House began its legislative response to the challenges of the new post-September 11 world.

"Thank you Capitol Police"/tiles/non-collection/9/9-8-ThankCapitolPolice-2005_213_006-1.xml Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
In a demonstration of support for the tireless efforts of the Capitol Police Force, congressional staff wore commemorative pins inscribed with, “Thank you Capitol Police.”

President Georgie W. Bush Addressed a Joint Session of Congress on the Subject of the War on Terrorism
During his speech, President Bush said, “Our grief has turned to anger; and anger to resolution. Whether we bring our enemies to justice, or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done.”

Security & Safety

Thank You Capitol Police Lapel Pin
Following the attacks and amid threats of further terrorism, staff wore commemorative buttons to support the Capitol Police.

The National Guard Assists the U.S. Capitol Police
Members of the DC National Guard arrived to relieve Capitol Police from their increased responsibilities in the Fall of 2001.

Security Changes
Steve Elmendorf details the lasting effects of September 11 on security at the Capitol.

Steve Elmendorf, Chief of Staff, Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri Interview recorded June 1, 2011

In Retrospect

A Special Session at Federal Hall in New York City
Congress held a special session to convey solidarity with New Yorkers a year following the terrorist attacks of September 11.

Federal Hall Joint Meeting Lapel Pin
This pin was worn by some Members on the first anniversary of September 11.

Heroes of Flight 93
Charles W. Johnson praises the heroism of the passengers of Flight 93.

Charles W. Johnson, Parliamentarian, U.S. House of Representatives Interview recorded June 9, 2011 Transcript (PDF)

This is part of a series of blog posts for educators highlighting the resources available on History, Art & Archives of the U.S. House of Representatives. For lesson plans, fact sheets, glossaries, and other materials for the classroom, see the website's Education section.