9/11 at the White House

We’re just a few days past the 13th anniversary of 9/11, like many people, I can’t believe it’s been that long.

I was at home in bed when the first plane hit the twin towers.  I was in college and off of school that day.  My mom came running up stairs to my room telling me that New York was under attack.  In my groggy, just woken from slumber state, I remember thinking that it was too early for a baseball game.  My brain processed my mom’s message in baseball terms of them losing pretty bad.

I went downstairs to the living room and watched the endless replay of the impacts as well as the following crashes.  It was pre-cell phone era still in our household so we couldn’t get a hold of my sister who was out running her errands.  Not knowing what was going to happen next, mom and I decided to go gas up our cars and go to the grocery store for some essentials.  We managed to go to the filling station before they decided to sell a gallon of gas above $8.  (Luckily that only lasted for a little while before they were ordered to lower the prices).

I remember I didn’t feel safe until I saw President Bush speaking on TV that night.  There was one speech that I saw, he wasn’t in the Oval Office, but standing at a skinny podium somewhere.  I remember so vividly seeing him crying.

This is just a brief account of my 9/11 memories.  What I wanted to write about for this Sentimental Sunday post, was my 9/11/2006 experience.

September 2006 I was a White House Intern.  It was only our 2nd week so everything was still new to me.  I was used to security, but I guess I wasn’t prepared for an all out blockage of Pennsylvania Ave.  Normally I got off the subway from my apartment at the McPherson Square stop and walked through Lafayette Square park to get to the office.  But that day, I was not allowed to exit the park, even though all I had to do was cross the street and I was there.  I had left early enough because there was to be a special 9/11 ceremony on the South Lawn……. but not early enough for a detour.   I had to go all the way out of my way just to arrive at the same destination.  Being that I wasn’t used to wearing these fancy dress shoes it took me a long time.

So after going through regular security and getting to my office….the interns had already left for the ceremony.  I was upset, but sat at my desk, ready to work.  I sat in the room with my two immediate supervisors.  I was asked why I wasn’t at the ceremony and I explained my dilemma.  One of my supervisors told me I could go with him and he escorted me to the South Lawn of the White House.  I was given a flag pin to wear on my suit lapel. 

He and I stepped out onto the lawn and found a office co-worker and stood by her.  The lawn was divided into two rows.  I could see from the colored badges that all of the interns were on one side of the grass, and I was on the opposite side with the cabinet and upper level staff members.  I closed my coat around my badge so no one else could see who I was.

I didn’t know what the ceremony was going to entail.  I hadn’t seen the President yet, so I was kind of hoping that he would be there.  If I had been thinking intelligently, obviously he was going to be at other commemorative events in New York and such.  

I was in a state of awe like I had never been before in my life, when the doors opened and I saw who was being escorted by Vice President Cheney.  It was former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.  Oh My God !  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  Here is a photo from that morning.  You can’t see me in the picture, but I am standing behind the woman in white on the upper left hand corner of the picture.  In the background you see the soldiers holding the flags, and the one on the left has a rifle.  To the left of him is the woman in white and I am behind her.  

The tragedy of 9/11 will never be forgotten, and neither will this event I attended to honor those who were lost during the terror attacks.  

This photo is from the White House website which is now in archive status but still accessible here. White House Archive Web Site      

Vice President Dick Cheney and Lynne Cheney stand with former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain for a moment of silence on the South Lawn September 11, 2006, to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. White House photo by Shealah Craighead

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2 thoughts on “9/11 at the White House

    • I still have to hold back tears when watching documentaries about it. It’s so emotional. I also got to visit the Pentagon and during the tour we stopped to rest. People were milling about and then the tour guide said, you are standing where the nose of the plane stopped when it struck. It was as if we just witnessed the accident. Everyone gasped and began crying.

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