SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – Twenty years ago it seemed as though the bubble of the new millennia in America was popped.
Pierced by planes that crashed into the Twin Towers, a rural Pennsylvania field, and the Pentagon.
A loss of life that shook us to our core and still shakes us each year since. We all remember where we were and what we were doing that day.
East Bay Congresswoman Barbara Lee was at the U.S. Capitol when the Pentagon was hit nearby.
In a KRON4 exclusive interview, she talks about that day and shares how she remembers 9/11 and all that’s followed since.
Read our full Q & A below:
How are you feeling today, 20 years later?
“Well, today is a very somber day. It’s a day for reflection, and in many ways the country, including myself, we’re still grieving the lives lost, the trauma, the longstanding health impacts of the first responders, our troops, the communities that were hit by these horrific terrorist attacks. And I think today we all need to just stop and reflect and understand that 20 years ago we lost so so many lives, and this country was forever changed. I want to want to also remember today, Wanda Green. Wanda was a flight attendant on Flight 93. She is the cousin of my former chief of staff Sandre Swanson. I was sitting in the Capital that morning, and we were told to evacuate right away. We didn’t know what was taking place, but I looked behind me as I ran up Pennsylvania avenue and saw the smoke coming from the Pentagon. Later we learned that Flight 93, more than likely, was coming into the Capitol. And so today I’m thinking, especially those heroes on Flight 93 who saved many lives because they took that plane down, and it’s a very somber day. My thoughts and prayers go out to all those who lost so many lives and loved ones.”
You do recount that connection that you have on a new documentary series on Netflix called Turning Point: 9/11 and the War on Terror. What pushed you to be a part of the documentary?
“I was very reluctant initially. First of all, the memories and the grief many of us are still feeling, recognizing we have to move forward, but that’s still there. I wasn’t sure I should be part of this, but I’m glad I did. These experiences are a sear in my heart and in my brain. I’m oftentimes reluctant to talk about it, but if I can share my feelings, my emotions, my love for people, my caring to keep our troops out of harm’s way then I felt like, and my staff encouraged me to go on and do that.”
Learning that you voted no on the war in Afghanistan. How difficult was that for you to vote away from both anyone in the House and the Senate. Would you vote that way again?
“I voted no, and today also I’m thinking about our troops, the troops we’ve lost, the Afghan people. the collateral damage, the civilians who were killed, the refugees. And I’m saying to myself, you know, this is the moment we have to thank our troops and solute our troops because they were sent into harm’s way. They did everything our country asked them to do, and our veterans deserve every bit of our support. I knew then that when I voted against that authorization that it was the right vote. Because that authorization was 60 words, and it was a blank check. It was overly broad, and it allowed any president to go to war without coming back to Congress. And it’s our job as members of Congress to represent the people per our Constitution and authorize or declare war, but that overly broad authorization just gave our responsibilities over to the executive branch. That was just wrong. I believe if something came before me today, and if it gave up my constitutional rights, the people’s voice on matters of war and peace, I certainly would vote against it. That does not mean I did not believe we should bring the terrorists to justice and we shouldn’t respond. But three days afterward, on 9/14 while we were grieving, while we were angry… that was not the moment to be rational and to come up with a strategy. That was not the moment to be rational and come up with a strategy. That was not the moment. We needed to step back, as I said on the floor, take a deep breath, be the thoughtful leaders who we are, and make some determinations with regard to the appropriate response and evaluate the consequences of that.”
You said “September 11th changed our world. Our deepest fears now haunt us.” How do you remember 9/11 and how do you think we as American people should continue to remember these victims?
“I remember the brave people, the heroes, the first responders, the families, the communities. The human of this is what I remember. Turning Point I think did a great job in putting forth the impact of what took place. That’s how I will remember that and will never forget that. We lost people all over the country. If you pray, I continue to pray for those families and communities. If you don’t, you need to reflect. I think it’s our job and duty and responsibility to remember those people who perished and also those emergency responders. I listened to some of the speeches this morning, and I think one of the lessons learned, and that we need to remember, is that we’re a caring county. We care for each other, we sacrificed a lot for each other. We put our lives in danger for each other, and that’s something that we need to get back to recognizing even though we may have our political differences on policies. I’m a progressive democrat, but we have differences of opinion. But come on. We have to somehow get this country back on track to live up to its creative liberty and justice for all, and so we have to remember the human aspect of what took place.
Vice President Harris and former President George W. Bush both talked about unity here in America. Not only is it essential for America to be America, but it’s essential for our safety as national security.
Anyone can watch more of Congresswoman Barbara Lee on Netflix in Turning Point: 9/11 and the War on Terror. She can be seen in episodes two and five.