Rep. Dick Armey, R-Texas
My day began quite routinely. I was in my office at 8 o'clock, drinking my coffee and eating a bagel. One of my top guys walked in and said someone had flown a plane into the first tower. Like so many other people, we watched on television as the other plane hit the second tower. Then the plane hit the Pentagon.
Someone made the decision that we should vacate the Capitol, and my security guys hustled us out of there. We got in the car and we couldn't communicate by cell phone, but we could communicate by BlackBerry. I reached the speaker and was able to discern that he was going to Andrews Air Force Base. We went there and were flown by helicopter to some undisclosed location. I still don't know where it was. I've never asked where it was. It's not information that I need to have.
We were escorted to an office, and we were impressed with how nice the office looked. The speaker asked me if I saw anything curious. I looked, and there was the presidential seal. Somebody had put us in there by mistake. The speaker called and said somebody had made a mistake, and we were moved to another room.
As time went on, other members of the House and Senate leadership arrived. We watched what we could on television and tried to determine how to get back to business. We were in constant communication with the president, the vice president, and the secretary of Defense.
"We were flown by helicopter to some undisclosed location. I still don't know where it was."
I don't think anyone was concerned about their party affiliation. Everyone knew that it was important that we maintain an atmosphere of unity. Nobody was panicky. It was all matter-of-fact and concern about what we could do to reconvene. We were concerned about where our people were. The best things we had were our internal beeper system and our BlackBerrys.
Later in the day, when we felt confident that any threat to the Capitol had dissipated, we decided to return. We were helicoptered to the Capitol lawn. The whole idea behind gathering on the Capitol steps was to tell the country: "Here we are. We're at work." We broke out into song-"God Bless America." It was a pretty remarkable thing. People commented that they saw Maxine Waters and I hugging. That's not so rare. We're good friends. We just don't agree on anything.
Everything was very businesslike. I think something about the gravity of the situation just sobered us up.
This interview originally appeared in the August 31, 2002 edition of National Journal.
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