Mr. Speaker, the country is recovering from natural disasters that are taking place all over our land: on the West Coast and the Northwest, we have the wildfires; over the weekend, we had Hurricane Irma going through Florida, now through the Southeastern States causing havoc; and then, of course, we are still reeling from the hammering that we received in Houston and other areas because of Hurricane Harvey, where thousands have lost their homes, over a million cars are destroyed. Natural disasters are taking place.
In the midst of all of this, yesterday was a day we should also remember, not because we had natural disasters, but because we had an attack on the United States 16 years ago. Yes, September 11, 2001.
All of us who are old enough remember exactly what we were doing, as we should always remember what we were doing that day—a defining moment in our personal lives. I was a judge in Texas at that time.
I was driving my Jeep—an old, red, beat up Renegade Jeep—to the court-house, and I was listening to KILT Radio, Hudson & Harrigan in the Morning, a country-western station. Robert B. McIntyre, the newscaster, came on and said that a plane had hit one of the towers in New York City.
Like most folks, I didn’t know what to make of that. I thought maybe it was an accident.
But a few minutes later, he was back on the air talking about a second plane crashing into the other tower in New York City. I pulled over to the side of the road, as other people were doing, and listened to what was taking place in America as we were attacked.
We all know the rest of the story about some wonderful people who were hijacked on a plane in Pennsylvania who took that plane down that apparently was headed for Washington, D.C., probably this building.
They saved the lives of Members of Congress and people who worked in Washington. The fourth plane crashed into the Pentagon.
I would just like to talk about that fourth plane. That plane, American Airlines Flight No. 77, takes off from Dulles, takes to the air, in less than 50 minutes turns around, and is headed back to the Pentagon.
As you know, Mr. Speaker, the Pentagon is right next to Arlington Cemetery. At the top of the crest of Arlington Cemetery is the Tomb of the Unknown.
I call it the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It is the Tomb of the Unknown.
The Tomb of the Unknown is guarded 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, all of the time, by the United States Army 3rd Infantry Division. The oldest infantry division in the United States has the honor, the duty, and the privilege to guard the tomb of America’s unknown who died for us.
So what happened on September 11 when the two planes crashed into the World Trade Center and the other plane is headed toward the Pentagon? Yes, the soldiers are on guard.
And did they leave their post? Absolutely not.
In fact, they not only did not leave their post, Mr. Speaker, they called for reinforcements, and they had 30 other soldiers create a perimeter around the tomb to guard it from whatever may occur from that terror that hit in the skies. They were there on duty.
I assume, and I don’t know this, but I assume those guards that day knew about the first two planes that hit the World Trade Center. The sergeant major on duty did not want those soldiers to leave the post.
He called for reinforcements to protect the tomb from that terror in the skies. Remarkable stories that took place that day, Mr. Speaker, stories about Americans helping other Americans, just like Americans are helping Americans today with the wildfires and the hurricanes.
There are many other stories that we will never know about. We know that on that day, as the smoke was burning in New York and in Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon, our first responders, when that terror came to America, they didn’t run.
They ran toward that terror in the skies. Those men and women in our law enforcement agencies, our fire departments, emergency medical technicians, and thousands of others ran to help other people, strangers, when those planes, those terrorists, attacked America.
We know that right down the street here at the Tomb of the Unknown where Arlington Cemetery is, where we bury our war dead, we know, of course, that that tomb stayed guarded, protected from that terror in the skies. Remarkable people, these Americans.
And that is just the way it is.