- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 12, 2001

Terror struck the Capitol yesterday, even though a hijacked plane did not.
On television monitors across Capitol Hill, lawmakers and staffers were watching the horrifying scenes at the Pentagon and New York's World Trade Center unfold around 9:30 a.m. when reports began to circulate that a plane commandeered by terrorists was headed for the Capitol.
About 9:45 a.m., Capitol police officers cleared tourists and federal employees from the Capitol and hundreds of congressional offices in a sometimes orderly, sometimes panicky evacuation. In a park across the street, a Navy Memorial carillon was chiming "God Bless America."
"Get away from the building" officers shouted at people streaming from the Capitol. "Get across the street."
"It was terrifying," said Emily Miller, spokeswoman for House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, Texas Republican.
"I was told a plane was headed towards the Capitol and to evacuate," said Eileen Milton, coordinator of the Congressional Record. "Everyone just ran but it was fairly calm, but my heart is still beating like crazy. We're lucky it wasn't the Capitol."
In the Senate's Russell Office Building, Sen. Christopher S. Bond, Missouri Republican, had met with his staff minutes before the evacuation order.
Stunned by the attacks in New York and at the Pentagon, Mr. Bond told his aides to go home to their loved ones if they wished.
"This is obviously a day without precedent in American history," Mr. Bond told his staff.
Moments later, after the evacuation order, Mr. Bond was on the telephone when a loud noise like an explosion rattled the office's windows, prompting the staff to close the blinds for fear of flying glass. Senate aides later said the noise was caused by F-15 fighter jets.
Security personnel, following protocol, whisked away Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, and other congressional leaders in caravans of dark-colored vehicles that one witness described as traveling "a thousand miles an hour."
Mr. DeLay was in the midst of a press conference on the Capitol grounds when he received a call on his cell phone around 9:40 a.m. He looked shaken and was spirited away by Capitol police minutes later.
House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat, was in a meeting with staff and House Democratic Conference Chairman Martin Frost of Texas when he learned of the attacks. He ended the meeting and called Mr. Hastert, who was already being evacuated and told Mr. Gephardt to leave, too.
Mr. Daschle was at his Capitol building office when the attacks occurred, according to spokesman Doug Hattaway.
As news of the Pentagon attack was breaking, Mr. Daschle received a call from the White House informing him that the residence was being evacuated and recommending he do the same. "Looking out the window, we saw a plume of smoke," Mr. Hattaway said, and Mr. Daschle decided to leave.
Congressional leaders were taken with one aide each to a secure bunker at an undisclosed location in northern West Virginia. Their staffers back in Washington said they were unable to communicate with them.
Many staffers said they were told another hijacked airplane had targeted the Capitol.
Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat, said he told people to stay in the Rayburn House Office Building, where his office is located.
"I didn't want them out on the street," Mr. Moran said. "I thought the Rayburn would be safer than being stuck on 14th Street. They're not going to have a bomb in the Rayburn; it's not a significant enough building."
Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, Maryland Democrat, also did not want to leave the Capitol. The chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee was holding a hearing in the Dirksen Building when the evacuation order came.
Last night nearly 200 lawmakers gathered on the East Steps of the U.S. Capitol, where the House speaker said, "We will stand shoulder to shoulder to fight the evil that has been perpetrated on this nation."
Speaking to reporters and lawmakers, Mr. Hastert promised, "We will stand together to make sure that those who brought forth this evil will pay the price."
Mr. Daschle vowed to "stand strongly united behind the president and work together to ensure that the full resources of the government are brought to bear in these efforts."
"As the representatives of the people, we are here to declare that our resolve has not been weakened by these horrific and cowardly acts," Mr. Daschle said.
As Mr. Hastert, Mr. Daschle and the collected Republican and Democratic leadership of Congress left the Capitol steps, lawmakers spontaneously began singing, some with tears in their eyes, "God Bless America."
* John Godfrey and John Berlau contributed to this report.



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