The Honorable Paul E. Kanjorski
As a Page during the 83rd Congress, Paul E. Kanjorski witnessed a violent attack against the United States House of Representatives on March 1, 1954. He later went on to win a U.S. House seat representing a Pennsylvania district for 13 terms. His House service coincided with another act of terrorism against the nation on September 11, 2001.
From a young age Paul E. Kanjorski had a keen interest in politics. His passion for political biographies and an admiration for two U.S. Senators who served as congressional Pages—Daniel Webster of Massachusetts and Arthur Vandenberg of Michigan—laid the foundation for a long career in elected office. In this interview Kanjorski explains how he viewed Page service as a critical component of his goal to become a public official. Through a family connection, Kanjorski received a Page appointment under the sponsorship of Representative Edward Bonin of Pennsylvania who served during the 83rd Congress (1953–1955).
Only 15 years old when he arrived at the U.S. Capitol, Kanjorski joined the Page ranks, primarily running errands for Members of Congress. Before the advent of mobile communication, Representatives depended on the timely delivery of messages and materials by House Pages. Kanjorski describes his busy work schedule, his education in the Capitol Page School, the local boarding house where he resided, and racial segregation in Washington, DC, during the 1950s. As a Page he witnessed the violent attack in the House Chamber on March 1, 1954, where four Puerto Rican nationalists fired shots at House Members to bring attention to their cause of independence from the United States. Kanjorski, along with other Pages including Bill Emerson—a close friend who later served in Congress with Kanjorski—tended to the Representatives wounded during the assault. His eyewitness account details bullets ricocheting off walls and furniture in the House Chamber and Pages carrying injured Members from the Capitol on stretchers to waiting ambulances. Kanjorski also reflects on the effects of the attack on Congress as well as its impact on the Pages.
Thirty years after the shooting, Kanjorski won election to the House in 1984. In 2001 as a U.S. Representative from Pennsylvania he recalls learning of the attacks on September 11 while returning to the Capitol after a meeting at the White House. Kanjorski provides a detailed description of the day that included evacuating his office, accounting for staff, and gathering with Members on the Capitol steps in a moment of national unity. He also reveals how Congress responded to the destruction and crisis caused by the terrorist attack and explains his work on revising catastrophic insurance legislation.
Path to Becoming a Page
Discrimination in the Capitol
"Grow Up Quickly"
Responsibilities of Pages
Reaction of the Pages
Reflections on the Aftermath of the Shooting
Remembering the Day
Gathering on the Capitol Steps
Imagining the Worst
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