September 11, 2001 : Attack on America
Congressional Record Senate - National Support for New York; September 13, 2001

NATIONAL SUPPORT FOR NEW YORK -- (Senate - September 13, 2001)

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Mrs. CLINTON. Mr. President, I wanted to take just a few minutes of morning business to report to my colleagues about my visit, along with Senator Schumer, to New York yesterday, to convey the appreciation that New Yorkers feel, starting with our Governor and our mayor but going down through the people whom I saw--whether they were a firefighter, or police officer, or emergency medical technician, or someone standing on the street--for the unified and extraordinary support that has been demonstrated by our entire country, starting with our President.

Senator Schumer and I flew to New York with Administrator Joe Allbaugh, the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, for the purpose of assessing the damage and attending a very long briefing with the Governor and mayor and their respective staff who are on the front lines dealing with this tragedy.

We took a military plane from Andrews and flew to LaGuardia where we got into helicopters. The helicopters flew us to the tip of Manhattan where we circled from the East River toward the Hudson and were close enough in to see the burning debris, to see the wreckage, the crumpled destruction of the buildings that had once stood there--a sight that the only comparable basis I think most living Americans would have, such as our distinguished senior Member, Senator Inouye, is what war was like in World War II, or Korea, or Vietnam.

We took another pass so we could get in a little bit closer. As we did, we saw dozens and dozens of people running away from the site. We later learned that the continuing danger from these structurally damaged and unsafe buildings had driven our rescue workers out.

We landed at the heliport on the East Side and went in to meet with the mayor and the Governor. We had some time to talk with the press, where everyone expressed the solidarity and unity that the people of New York are

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certainly feeling between and among themselves, and that we are grateful for the support that our President, our Congress, our entire Government, and people have given New York.

We then went in a convoy down to the site. I wish every one of my colleagues could have been with us, because the streets were lined with people holding American flags and signs expressing their gratitude and their thanks to the many workers and volunteers who had come to help, and a real sense of resolve and demonstration of support for our Nation.

Because of the difficulties with the buildings, we were not able to go in as close as we had originally planned. So we stopped at a place short of the immediate area that one could approach and still not interfere with the search and rescue mission or be in danger. We put on our masks because the acrid smell of the still burning debris is extraordinarily oppressive. We got a briefing on the spot from some of the people who were directly in charge of the work that is being done.

I felt as though I were on the edge of hell. I watched the smoke rising. I could see the twisted wreckage, and I had a much clearer visual image because of my helicopter view. I saw the people who have been there hour after hour since this vicious attack occurred coming toward me. Their shift was over. They were seeking some respite--firefighters in their uniforms covered from head to toe with dust and debris, exhausted, and dragging their fire axes with them.

The impression and feeling that one gets from actually being even as close as I was is so much greater with respect to the devastation than we see on our television screens. The television in a sense contains a miniaturized view of what has happened in New York.

When we then stood there for a few minutes--and that is all we were able to spend there--we visited with people who were looking for their lost loved ones. One mother in particular had just come down to the area hoping against hope to hear something about her son. Residents who had lost their apartments, their offices, and their businesses were standing on the side of a familiar street in a totally awful, inexplicable new circumstance.

We then went to the police academy which has been set up to be the command center since the city's command center was lost in the collapse of one of the ancillary buildings to the two towers, and we had a very long and very informative briefing from the mayor, from the Governor, and from all of the people on the front lines--the police commissioner and others who talked about where they were in the struggle that they are engaged in against this massive mountain of debris.

Just that night they had moved out more than 120 dump trucks filled with debris. The estimate from the Army Corps of Engineers is that there will be at least 500,000 tons of debris.

In addition to the immediate search and rescue and cleanup work that has to go on, the power situation, the loss of energy and telephone and communication services, has meant that the New York Stock Exchange could not open for business yesterday. It has meant that there are still many offices of our major financial institutions unable to reopen.

The humanitarian needs are enormous. There is an armory down on Lexington Avenue at about 25th or 26th Street that will be open for those whose family members and loved ones and friends are missing so that they can go down and identify, and have that registered, and provide additional information that may be required for identification.

The overall impression that I certainly take from that experience yesterday is of the pride I feel in the work that is being done, of the leadership given by our mayor and our Governor, of our police and fire and emergency personnel, the extraordinary readiness of our hospitals to care for the injured, the tragedies--there are not as many injured as they had expected--and

the realization that we have a very big job ahead of us, a job of cleaning up and rebuilding and reconstructing.

I asked for some estimate from the mayor and the Governor as to what we were looking at because this is something for which we have to plan. They were obviously unable to say what the total estimate would be of the costs that have already been incurred and will necessarily have to be incurred in the future, but they know that they could immediately explain and justify $20 billion of direct costs. We will be asking our colleagues for a show of support, as a way of recognizing that the epicenter of this attack on our country occurred in New York City.

I took a late train back last night because I needed to be here to work with my colleagues on not only the further understanding of the level of devastation and need that has occurred but to answer questions and to be available as we continue to try to sort out what kind of national response is required.

I am very pleased that the President will be going to New York tomorrow afternoon. I applaud and salute him for that decision. I know it was a difficult decision because of the security issues that surround the movement of any President. I personally, on behalf of my constituents, thank him.

I will be meeting, along with Senator Schumer, and others, at the White House this afternoon with the President, where I will personally not only convey my appreciation for his leadership, his commitment, and his visit tomorrow, but also the specifics about the requests that the Governor and the mayor have made for additional and specific Federal assistance.

In addition, I introduced legislation earlier today that will be cosponsored by many colleagues on both sides of the aisle. It has an identical companion bill in the House. It is S. 1422, which will expedite the process by which the Federal Government provides benefits to the families of public safety officers, firefighters, police officers, emergency service personnel, and others who lost their lives in the line of duty.

I am very pleased, once again, that the President, in his video-phone conversation with the mayor and the Governor, stated his strong support for this legislation.

It has been said that more public safety officers lost their lives in the terrorist attack against the United States on September 11 than in any other single event in modern history.

We may not know exactly how many rescuers gave the ultimate sacrifice yet, but I was told by the acting commissioner yesterday that they are missing 300 firefighters.

I just was handed a note that is a very good piece of news, that they have just found two firefighters and one citizen still alive, which is why the search and rescue mission has to continue. We cannot give up. We know from cell phone communication and from the experience and intuition of our firefighters and rescue personnel on the scene that it is still possible--as we just learned--for people to be alive buried under that rubble. We will not give up until we find every single person.

Yet when we look at who is on the front lines, it is not me carrying the ax. It is not me as one of the ironworkers who rushed down to volunteer their services to help remove some of the debris. It is not me as a police officer who is on the front lines. It is these men and women who have made the sacrifice to protect us, and to respond as they would have at a

time of battle. And, in effect, when this act of war took place, they were our front-line soldiers.

The Federal Government provides a one-time benefit payment to the families of public safety officers lost in the line of duty through the public safety officer benefit program. Unfortunately, these benefits are often delayed for long periods of time because of very burdensome regulatory applications.

In fact, I stood in this Chamber back in May to commend the sacrifice of brave New York City firefighters who lost their lives in a Father's Day blaze in Queens. Their families are still struggling to complete the application process. They fill it out and they are told they need more information.

It is imperative that we take action now to ensure that the family members of those brave men and women who lost their lives in this terrorist attack are not confronted with the same onerous process.

So the legislation that I have introduced today would direct the Department of Justice to expedite the process for these families of those who lost their lives while responding at the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Virginia, or in Stonycreek Township, PA.

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Given what I heard on television from the President, and the extraordinarily broad support that I have for this already in the Senate, I do not think this will be a controversial piece of legislation. But I hope it can be considered as soon as possible to send a tangible message to our firefighters, our police officers, and our emergency personnel that we are with them and their families in their time of loss.

Finally, Mr. President, we are just realizing the full depth of the humanitarian crisis and grief and loss that has occurred. For the children who have now been orphaned, the husbands and wives who have been widowed, the parents who are facing what no parent should have to face ever--the loss of their son or their daughter--there are no words adequately to describe or express our sense of loss as a society.

I am very grateful that the city, the State, and FEMA will be on the ground with grief counseling, with psychological help, with mental health services because having been to more disasters in my life than I wished, I know that those who do not bear any visible injuries or scars carry deep and lasting wounds.

We will, as a nation, not only seek out the enemy wherever he may be, but we will also care for the grieving and the wounded. We will, I know, do everything required to provide whatever help and assistance we can as a nation.

I also hope that for those who were far away from any of the attacks on September 11, they, too, will talk with one another and comfort each other.

I was very grateful and proud to see Laura Bush, Mrs. Bush, on television today talking about the need to have an open conversation with our children, depending upon their ages, to reassure and comfort them because the binding up of our wounds as a nation goes far beyond lower Manhattan, or Arlington, VA.

We have all been stricken by this cowardly act of terrorism, but I am confident that we will respond with the same resolute purpose that has always defined us as a nation, with the same compassion that marks us as a people, and with the same resolve to not only defend ourselves wherever and whenever that is necessary, but to rebuild and reconstruct the human spirit and the physical terrain of America.

Thank you, Mr. President.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, the senior Senator from New York will be recognized for 7 minutes.

Mr. SCHUMER. Thank you, Mr. President.

Mr. President, I join with my colleague in speaking of our trip that we had to New York and in what we are seeking to do here.

I fly home to New York every week. The sight I see is usually a friendly sight:

first over Staten Island and the Verrazano Bridge, and then Prospect Park and my home which is on Prospect Park in Brooklyn, then the Statue of Liberty and those two tall towers that stand as symbols of New York.

We flew back with FEMA Administrator Joe Allbaugh last night. Those towers were gone. I felt violated. My city, the city we all love, had been violated. To hear the people talk about looking for their loved ones, to go down there and see a war zone, to fly in the helicopter and see these two tall towers gone--unbelievable.

Two things get us through this: First, the resilience of New Yorkers--I talked about that yesterday--and second, the words of not only sympathy but offers of help from the President, Members of both sides of this body, from all regions and, in addition, from the other body.

We have talked to the mayor and Governor. We have put together a plan. We are going to ask our colleagues for help. We are going to ask them for $20 billion in addition to the appropriation that will come forward now. It seems like a huge sum of money, but let me catalog some of the problems.

The mayor and Governor are compiling a list. We want to move this bill quickly so that list will not be complete and this will not be a complete inventory of our needs. We will certainly have to come back.

Rescue and recovery will cost $10 billion, according to the mayor. The subway that has collapsed under the World Trade Center Towers will cost $1 to $3 billion to fix. We have lost 20 million square feet of office space; 100,000 people don't have places to work. Add to that the loss of life of the brave policemen, firefighters, EMS people, those who went to work in the morning innocently. This is not a usual tragedy for a usual response. We need help. We need large help.

The President told me when I spoke with him that he would do anything he could to help. We are so glad he is coming to New York tomorrow. The mayor and Governor have expressed that, and so do we. But we need, of course, more than just expressions of sympathy and solidarity, as deeply as those are appreciated. Our financial markets are crippled. Our electricity market, our phone system, all of this is in huge trouble.

We are putting forward, Senator Clinton and myself, a proposal. We will bring it in broad outline before our colleagues in a few minutes. We will then work on language, and hopefully it can be incorporated into the bill.

Let me just say, these are the most difficult times I have faced as an elected official. I now understand, during our valiant struggles--whether it be the Revolution, the Civil War, World War II--how brave our soldiers were to just go on despite the heavy burdens pressed upon them. I feel that a little bit myself. It is hard to get up in the morning having not slept or having had nightmares of those planes going through the towers. There are too many things to do in the day, but every one of them is essential. And go on we must.

To my colleagues and the Nation, New York desperately needs your help. We have come before you as people who contribute greatly to our Nation in so many different ways. Now we need you. Please be there for us.


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