20 years later: Reflections on 9/11

David Dreier ’75 meets with CMC students on campus during the 2020 spring semester.

David Dreier ’75: Remembering 9/11

Before September 11, 2001, the War of 1812 is likely the last time that the U.S. Capitol was vacant. Twenty years ago, David Dreier ’75, Chairman of the House Rules Committee, was the last person to leave the building following two terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City. He and a Capitol police officer locked the door on the East Front of that citadel of democracy.

In a recent interview, Dreier reflected on the 20th Anniversary of 9/11.

Where were you and what were you doing when the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon occurred?

In an attempt to, sort of, stay on California time, I rarely accepted 7 a.m. (4 a.m. PST) breakfast meetings. That day, however, I agreed to address the California Bankers Association at the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel. After discussing the California economy, Federal Reserve policy, and more, I headed back to my office just above the House Chamber. Little did I know that this would be the last time that any car could enter the completely open Capitol complex. By the end of that day, the building was surrounded by huge dump trucks. That was just the beginning of security, which sadly limits public access to the People’s House. That morning when I arrived in my office, my assistant called telling me to turn on the television. I wished her a happy birthday (I’ll be doing so this year, as always) as we watched in horror witnessing the second plane hit the World Trade Center. While the Capitol was emptied, I remained convinced that the massive dome above me would stand forever. After the Pentagon was hit, I stepped into the empty hallway. I’ll never forget Capitol Police Officer Rudy saying, “Mr. Chairman, there’s a plane headed right toward this structure.” We now know about United Flight 93, and how heroic passengers and crew crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. As he locked the door, Rudy looked to me and said: “You’re the last person to leave this building.”

Ironically, I was hosting a small lunch for the majority members of the Rules Committee with Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. My staff was talking with Rumsfeld’s office just as the plane hit the Pentagon.

Later that afternoon Democrats and Republicans from the House and Senate stood on the East Front steps and sang “God Bless America.”

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Heidi Wolfgruber ’11: Inspired to help those affected by 9/11

Heidi Wolfgruber ’11 stands at a clear podium for a VOICES event

Heidi Wolfgruber ’11 wants to ensure that the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks are not forgotten.

For her, it’s personal.

Growing up in New Canaan, Conn., Wolfgruber felt the impact of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, as her town lost members of their community. And, for a few anxious hours, Wolfgruber was concerned that her father, Kurt, whose office was inside the World Trade Center, was also among the victims. Fortunately, he wasn’t. But Wolfgruber can still remember how it felt to be uncertain of his whereabouts that morning.

“A lot of people were affected, as our town had so many commuters to New York City,” Wolfgruber recalled.

Shortly after 9/11, close family friends who lost their son in the World Trade Center Towers founded Voices of September 11th, now known as Voices Center for Resilience (VOICES) to provide long-term support for 9/11 families. Based in New Canaan, the nonprofit organization has evolved to further assist not just 9/11 families, but also communities to prepare for and recover from traumatic events.

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Gilien Silsby


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