September 11, 2021
Dear Fellow Marylanders:
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 20 years since foreign terrorists murdered nearly 3,000 Americans in one of the most horrific attacks in our nation’s history, including 68 Marylanders. At times, the wounds still seem as fresh as if it were yesterday. Thousands of innocent men, women, and children of many races, religions, nationalities and backgrounds were lost before our eyes. We honor their memory. We will never forget them.
As individuals and as a nation, 9/11 changed us forever. The threat of terrorism was no longer something that happened “over there.” It had arrived on our doorstep, crashing into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and – thanks to the bravery of many passengers – a field in Shanksville, Pa.
On that day in 2001, through our grief and anger, we came together as a nation to condemn those who attacked us. We stood united without regard for partisanship. We were Americans and we would not allow those who used our freedoms against us win the day. We thanked the selfless firemen, police officers and other first-responders and National Guard who rushed into the flames and debris. We thanked our military and diplomats who stood guard overseas in service to democracy. We showed compassion for the strangers who were left stranded far from home when every civilian aircraft had to land as soon as possible. And we hugged our families and friends a little tighter.
Twenty years later, the scars remain deeply personal. What adult cannot recall where they were when they learned that an airplane had crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center complex?
I was pulling into the parking garage at House of Representatives at about the time it was unfolding. Once I was in my office, I watched the events on TV with staff. Like everyone else, we had no idea what was happening. Was this a horrible accident? Once the second tower was hit, we realized this was something more. We watched as the Twin Towers collapsed. Before hearing confirmation that a plane had hit the Pentagon, we heard some news about a plane crashing in the area. We could see the flames and smoke from our office building.
Our minds raced through the possibilities. Who was attacking us and why? Where were our family members? Could we reach them?
I sent the staff home and remained at the office with one aide until a Capitol Police Officer knocked on our door. Cell phones were unusable and there were no messages or instructions to be had. Unbeknownst to us, the Capitol complex was evacuated. I then drove home, winding my way for two hours through some of the wildest traffic I had ever experienced.
Both the Senate and House of Representatives approved use-of-force resolutions on September 14, 2001, in response to the terrorist attack against our country. As a nation, we took measures to eliminate safe havens for terrorists and have brought many, including Osama bin Laden, to justice for deadly crimes against the American people.
At home, we continue to struggle to find a balance between public safety and civil liberties. It has not been easy. The terrorists turned the openness of American society against us, hoping fear and chaos would fill the void. Counter-terrorism measures certainly have saved lives but many have crossed the line, abridging the very rights and liberties they were supposed to protect. Shamefully, hate crimes against Muslim or Arab Americans jumped to new highs after the 9/11 attacks. My message on September 11, 2001 – and since that time – has been consistent: No one should use the attacks on our nation to demonize our neighbors based on a particular community, religion or creed. We cannot lose sight of the freedoms and rights that have always made the United States of America a beacon for all humankind.
On this solemn anniversary, we join together as Americans to show the world that America still stands for freedom and liberty. We are not a perfect nation, but we have shown the world strength in our resilience and compassion. We must reject hate and fear, and embrace respect, understanding and equality. We forever honor those who were taken from us on September 11, 2001. Terrorists can never extinguish the light of the greatest democracy this planet has ever known.
Thank you. Stay safe. Get vaccinated.