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Remembering where I was

At 8:46 a.m. on September 11, 2001, I was pouring a cup of coffee in the break room of my office when my wife called. She was watching cable news and reported that apparently a small plane had hit the World Trade Center in New York city. I turned on the television set moments after the second plane hit the south tower. I instantly knew this was no accident. The most memorable thing about that day is I had friends who were with President Bush on his trip to Sarasota, Florida, for an education event. As they traveled to military installations, first to Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport, Louisiana, and then Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, we emailed each other throughout the day, from Air Force One or on the ground as the president slowly made his way back to Washington, DC. There was an eerie horror and yet a calm resolve to our exchanges as the day proceeded. A member of my staff came in and asked, “What does it mean?” I replied, “We’re at war.” That night a small group of us in our neighborhood gathered to pray and watch the president’s address to the nation. The next week I had a previously scheduled meeting with Muslim leaders in DC on the calendar. Though the timing was ironic, to say the least, I felt it was important to go. When I flew to Washington, the airports were eerily quiet, the airplane almost empty. I had a productive dialogue with the Muslim leaders, and they expressed appreciation that I did not cancel.

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