September 11, 2001 : Attack on America
Congressional Record House - On Terrorist Attack of September 11, 2001; September 17, 2001

ON TERRORIST ATTACK OF SEPTEMBER 11, 2001 -- (House of Representatives - September 17, 2001)

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The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. CULBERSON). Under the Speaker's announced policy of January 3, 2001, the gentleman from California (Mr. Dreier) is recognized for 60 minutes.

Mr. DREIER. Mr. Speaker, I would like to take a few minutes to talk about a number of very important issues, building in many ways on the remarks of my friend from Huntington Beach, who, as he said very appropriately, was one of the key leaders in our effort to ensure that the Soviet Union was extricated from Afghanistan during the 1980s. It was a very troubling time; but, Mr. Speaker, as you recall, there was a tremendous victory, a victory because forcing the Soviets from Afghanistan was critically important to the demise of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union. So that is why we should celebrate what it is that we were able to do during the 1980s; but at the same time, we need to look at where we are today and what we need to do as a Nation.

It is very true that over the past several years we have seen a crumbling of our relationship with some countries that had been traditional allies of ours during the war between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union, and specifically Pakistan, the country to which my friend, the gentleman from (Mr. ROHRABACHER), referred. Today, however, I

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believe it is very important for us to recognize that General Pervaiz Musharraf, who in fact took the leadership of that country in a coup, has made a decision. He made a choice. And, obviously, we need to do everything that we can to ensure that he made the right choice and that he stands by that. He made a choice between the Taliban and those who were tolerant of what took place a week ago tomorrow, and not only the United States of America but the civilized world. So I am very pleased that that choice was made.

We also have other so-called moderate Arab countries in the region; and those countries have, I believe, made a correct and appropriate choice. And there are nations with which we have not had any kind of friendly relationship over the past several years that I believe can in fact align with the civilized world in opposition to the heinous acts which took place last week.

Mr. Speaker, today is a very important day in the history of the United States of America. September 17 is always known as Constitution Day; 214 years ago today the Constitution was ratified. I have the privilege later this afternoon of joining Supreme Court Justice Kennedy in a celebration of Constitution Day. He and I are going to be reciting, in unison, all across the country by a hookup, the preamble of our great Constitution. I thought I would take just a moment, since today is Constitution Day, to share that with our colleagues.

The preamble of this inspired document begins: ``We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare ..... do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.''

Now, Mr. Speaker, as we look at that brilliant preamble, I truly believe that those five words right in the middle of that preamble, and I have stood here many times and recited that as we have talked about our Nation's defense posture, those five words, which are so important, are ``provide for the common defense.'' So as we celebrate Constitution Day across the country, I believe it is important for us to underscore that the most important issue that the Federal Government here in Washington, D.C. deals with is to provide for the common defense and the safety and security of the American people and our interests around the world.

On this important day, I think it is great to note that the heinous acts that were committed last Tuesday were not in vain. We will be a stronger Nation because of this. We will be a stronger Nation having gone through this, the worst week in our Nation's modern history, the largest attack on civilians in the United States in our 214-year history and, as has been pointed out by many, more lives, nearly twice the number of lives lost than were lost at Pearl Harbor.

As we look at the challenges and as we look at where we go from here, it is important to note that this Nation had some incredible heroes last week.

[Time: 13:00]

This morning I listened to the radio to my friend Hugh Hewitt who has a great morning program. It is based in Los Angeles. It is syndicated across the country. He shared an account which I would like to share with our colleagues, an Associated Press report that was carried yesterday. This has to do with the tragic crash of flight number 93 that took place near Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

I was moved last week when our colleague, the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. MURTHA), when we were in the midst of debating the supplemental appropriation bill, let me say before I read this Associated Press article, Mr. Speaker, that to me it was very, very moving to see the extraordinary level of bipartisanship, not only patriotism across our country, but this extraordinary level of bipartisan that we saw right here in this institution.

People who have been some of the most strident and harshest critics of the man I consider to be our great President, were as enthusiastic in their support of his actions and his demeanor as any of the rest of us who have been longtime friends and supporters of his.

So, Congressman MURTHA told about the accounts that he had received of what took place on flight 93 that was headed to San Francisco and that reportedly the hijackers were going to bring right into this city, possibly into this Capitol dome that is right above where I stand today. This account is a very moving one about one individual.

It begins, quote, `` `Are you guys ready? Let's roll.' '' It is an expression Todd Beamer used whenever his wife and two young sons were leaving their home for a family outing. It was also the expression the 32-year-old businessman and Sunday school teacher used before he and other passengers apparently took action against hijackers aboard United Airlines Flight 93, his wife was told by an operator who talked to Beamer just before the plane crashed in a western Pennsylvania field on Tuesday.

``The plane, which government officials suspect was headed for a high-profile target in Washington, was the fourth to crash in a coordinated terrorist attack that killed thousands, and the only one that did not take lives on the ground.

Quote, `` `He was gentle by nature. He was also very competitive, and he would not stand for anyone being hurt,' said Lisa Beamer, whose account coincides with other crash victims' relatives who received calls from loved ones aboard the plane.'' Quote, `` `Knowing that he helped save lives by bringing that plane down, it brings joy to a situation where there is not much to be found.' ''

``Todd Beamer placed a call on one of the Boeing 757's on-board telephones and spoke for 13 minutes with GTE operator, Lisa D. Jefferson, Beamer's wife said. He provided detailed information about the hijacking, and after the operator told him about the morning's World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, said he and the others on the plane were planning to act against the terrorists aboard, Lisa Beamer said.

`` `They may have realized that the hijackers were planning to do the same thing with their plane,' Beamer said Sunday in a telephone interview from her Hightstown, New Jersey home. `` `So they chose to do what they could to prevent other people from being hurt.' ''

``Before the call ended and with yelling heard in the background, Todd Beamer asked the operator to pray with him. Together they recited the 23rd Psalm which includes the passage, `The Lord leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.' ''

``Then he asked Jefferson to promise she would call his wife of 7 years and their two sons, David and Andrew.

She is expecting a third child in January. After finally receiving clearance from investigators, Jefferson kept her promise Friday.

Quote, `` `People asked me if I am upset that I did not speak with him. But I am glad he called Jefferson instead,' Lisa Beamer said. `I would have been helpless and I know what his last words would have been to me anyway. I think that is why he chose the method he did.'

``Beamer said her husband placed the call at 9:45 a.m. Tuesday and told Jefferson that there were three knife-wielding hijackers on board and one had what appeared to be a bomb tied to his chest with a red belt. Two of the hijackers were in the cockpit with the door locked. The pilot and co-pilot were forced out and the man with the apparent bomb stayed in the rear of the aircraft. The jet was bobbing and changed course several times. The passengers knew that they would never land in San Francisco.

Quote, `` `They realized they were going to die. Todd said he and some other passengers were going to jump on the guy with the bomb,' Lisa Beamer said.

``Several other passengers made phone calls from the jet just before it crashed southeast of Pittsburgh. Jeremy Glick, 31; Mark Bingham, 31; and Thomas Burnett, 38, all called loved ones. Glick and Burnett said they were going to do something. Quote, `Clearly we know the plane that crashed outside Pittsburgh was headed for Washington.'

``Vice President Dick Cheney said on NBC's Meet the Press Sunday, 'Without question, the attack would have been much worse if it had not been for the courageous acts of those individuals on United 93.'

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``After the prayer was finished and the promise was made to call his wife, Todd Beamer dropped the phone, leaving the line open. It was then that the operator heard Beamer's words, `Let's roll.'

``They were the last words she heard. The phone went silent and the plane crashed, killing all 44 people aboard. United issued a statement Sunday saying one of the 37 passengers had purchased two tickets, so the number of people had been incorrectly reported at 45.

`` `Some people live their whole lives, long lives, without having left anything behind,' Lisa Beamer said. `My sons will be told their whole lives that their father was a hero, that he saved lives. It is a great legacy for a father to leave his children.'.

``Bobbi Hennessey, a spokeswoman for GTE parent company Verizon Communications, declined to comment Sunday and a telephone number for Jefferson could not be determined. However, a Verizon employee, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Jefferson is a supervisor for the company.''

This obviously is an example, Mr. Speaker, of the kind of heroism that we saw last Tuesday. When we think of the horrendous loss of life, the suffering that we as a Nation and a civilized world have encountered, it makes it even more important for us as a Nation to unite, which we have clearly done so well.

I was thinking of the names of our two largest airlines, United and American. Clearly America is united, and there are so many things that have played a role in bringing us together, the likes of which I have never seen in my entire life.

But the resilience of the American people is something that is so great and so wonderful. Last night, Andy Rooney on 60 Minutes said Tom Brokaw, who of course authored that wonderful book known as The Greatest Generation, may have to rename the book to One of the Greatest Generations. We have seen young men and women across this country say they are willing to stand up and fight for the United States of America and everything that we stand for.

But it is not only these young people of this new wonderful generation who for the first time have realized how great and fortunate they are to be Americans, but it is those who have sacrificed before.

About a year ago, I had an opportunity to present a Purple Heart to a very courageous prisoner of war from the Second World War, a man called Dominick Trapoti, who lives in Temple City, California. I found that to be one of the greatest rewards as a Member of Congress to be able to do. Mr. Trapoti shared his story about what he went through as a prisoner of war nearly 60 years ago. Dominick Trapoti came to my office in California last week, and he wanted to reenlist. He very much wanted to step forward and fight again on behalf of the greatest Nation the world has ever known.

When I think of a man like this, Mr. Speaker, I cannot help but think about those leaders who 214 years ago today, as they ratified the United States Constitution, had so many wonderful, wonderful things that they said.

Again, I truly believe that as our Nation is once again praying, that our Constitution was an inspired document. Thomas Jefferson, while it has never actually been determined whether he actually said this, I know that it has been attributed to him, at least the statement is Jeffersonian, when he said the condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance.

That statement, I believe, Mr. Speaker, underscores once again the fact that we cannot take for granted the very precious liberty that we enjoy as a Nation; and that is why sacrifice has been made throughout this 214-year history, and obviously sacrifice is being made today.

I mention, Mr. Speaker, that there have been prayers. There have been prayers since last Tuesday. Many of us have lost friends. We have participated in services all across the country. But as we look at the challenge of the weeks and months, and, as the President and Vice President have said, possibly years ahead as we seek to rid the civilized world of terrorism, I was very proud that early in the morning on Saturday just before we adjourned, the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. BONIOR), the minority whip, the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. TOM DAVIS), the majority whip, and others, were able to move through an important resolution.

We know that war is a very difficult time for a country. Virtually every emotion is felt during this time: Pain, suffering, anger, a wide range of emotions are felt.

One of the things that has come forward that is troubling has been the fact that some in this country would choose to generalize and determine that anyone who is Arab American might in some way be tied to or responsible for some of these actions. I was very proud that we were able to, as one of the last acts before we adjourned early Saturday morning, to move unanimously through this institution a resolution which condemned any kind of discrimination or acts which are turned against those who are Muslim.

I was privileged yesterday to be able to, although the long distance, the hook-up never finally worked, but I had my representative there and I got a full report of it, to participate in a service at the Claremont Islamic Center at which there were over 700 people who on basically very short notice, one day's notice, came to have a multidenominational service.

I was told by the director of my office in California, my field representative, Mark Harmsen, just before he got up to talk about the resolution that we had passed through the Congress condemning discrimination, that a young girl stood and talked about the fact that she had had someone tear off her veil.

I think as we look at these challenges, Mr. Speaker, it is important for us to realize that we cannot allow this kind of discrimination and these kinds of acts against people to take place. So I am very proud that the United States House of Representatives stood unanimously in support of our resolution condemning those acts.

Mr. Speaker, there is a lot of talk about the Muslim faith and whether or not there is widespread support for this kind of action. I know from, of course, knowing these people and having worked with leaders in the Muslim world across this continent, across the world, and here in the United States, many people who are of Arab American descent and love the United States of America as much as anyone.

While the backers and supporters and allies of Osama bin Laden and other terrorists have tried to exude the image that their believers have got to recognize that everyone else is evil, that is just a gross mischaracterization of the faith of Islam.

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A friend of mine spoke with Muhammad Ali. He, as we all know, has a difficult time communicating; but he was able to write out, and it was read, what the belief in Islam is. It is one of love, of tolerance, of peace, and of kindness. That is why we have to realize that what we are dealing with here are not religious leaders, are not people of religion. They are fanatic barbarians who want to do everything they can to bring an end to our way of life. That is why I am so gratified, as we complete the last day of the worst week in our Nation's modern history, that we have a country that is stronger than ever.

We all saw the stock market open this morning. I somewhat tongue-in-cheek never thought that I would be euphoric as I witnessed a 550-point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The fact is the wonderful people in the New York Stock Exchange, in southern Manhattan, were able to come back to work and to get the greatest Nation the world has ever known back on track.

We are going to be, as I said, stronger because of this. I am convinced, Mr. Speaker, that as the greatest Nation the world has ever known, the United States of America will be able to emerge as an even greater leader for the world than we have been before.

I believe that President Bush was right on target when he, shortly after these tragic acts took place said, ``Nothing--nothing--will diminish the spirit of our great country.''

Mr. Speaker, I thank you very much for your forbearance. I appreciate the fact that so many of our colleagues have been uniting together for this extraordinarily important cause. I express appreciation to the heroes like

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the one whom I mentioned, Mr. Beamer, and the firefighters and law enforcement people here in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, in Pennsylvania and, of course, in New York City. I hope very much that we are able in the not too distant future to bring about a successful resolution to this horrendous tragedy.


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