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Context of '7:24 p.m. September 11, 2001: Congressional Leaders Announce Congress Will Reconvene in Morning'

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Senator John Kerry looks up to the sky as he and others evacuate.Senator John Kerry looks up to the sky as he and others evacuate. [Source: CBC]The Capitol building in Washington, DC is evacuated. [Associated Press, 8/21/2002] It is the first time in US history this has ever happened. [Chicago Tribune, 9/12/2001; New York Times, 9/12/2001] Both the Senate and the House are in session at the time. [CNN, 8/17/2002] Capitol Police officers go through the building and order people to leave at once. [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; CNN, 9/11/2002]
Reports of Plane Approaching the Capitol - The evacuation appears to be in response to reports of a plane heading toward the Capitol. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; CNN, 8/17/2002; Bamford, 2004, pp. 80-81] According to CNN congressional correspondent Dana Bash, “the Capitol Police were hearing, in their radio, that there was a plane—another plane in the air, likely headed for the Capitol.” [CNN, 9/11/2006] When a Capitol Police officer instructs Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) to leave the building, he says: “We have word that an airplane is heading this way and could hit the building anytime. You need to evacuate.”
'Nothing Orderly' about Evacuation - However, there are problems with the evacuation. According to Daschle, “The fire alarm system, which was working in the nearby Senate office buildings, was never activated in the Capitol, so there were people who weren’t aware that an evacuation was taking place.” Also, some individuals are reluctant to leave. [Daschle and D'Orso, 2003, pp. 109-110] Rep. Bob Stump (R-AZ) will recall: “They tried to throw me out three times, but they didn’t succeed. I figured I was safer in the building than out on the street.” [Associated Press, 9/11/2001] Daschle will recall that there is “nothing orderly” about the evacuation. Outside the building “No one knew what to do or where to go. People congregated on the grass and in the parking lot. Senators and staff were mixed in with tourists, all staring up at the sky, wondering what might be headed our way.” [Daschle and D'Orso, 2003, pp. 110] CNN will report, “[S]ome of the most high ranking officials in the United States government were just kind of scattered around this area without a gathering point.” [CNN, 9/11/2006]
Sergeant at Arms Concerned over Poor Security - Al Lenhardt, the Senate’s sergeant at arms, will later say how alarmed he was “to see members of Congress and their staffs mixed in with visitors and passersby wandering in the open around the Capitol grounds. One of the tactics that terrorists have been known to employ is to create a diversion to move their intended target to the area where the actual attack will take place. Al imagined a bomb or gunfire erupting right there on the lawn outside the Capitol.” [Daschle and D'Orso, 2003, pp. 111] Eventually, many of the members of Congress go to the Capitol Police headquarters, which then serves as their command center for the day (see (9:55 a.m. and After) September 11, 2001 and (10:00 a.m.-6:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/11/2002; Daschle and D'Orso, 2003, pp. 112]

Entity Tags: Al Lenhardt, Robert Lee Stump, US Capitol Police, Tom Daschle

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL), who is third in line for the presidency, is evacuated from the US Capitol building and flown to a secret underground bunker in Virginia, where he remains until late in the afternoon. [ABC News, 9/11/2001; ABC News, 9/15/2002] Around 9:48, the Capitol building had begun evacuating (see 9:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). At that time, Hastert was on the House floor. Two members of his security detail now enter the chamber and tell him, “We’re going to evacuate the Capitol, and you’re going to a secure location.” They take him out of the building and drive him hurriedly to Andrews Air Force Base, ten miles southeast of Washington. After he arrives there, Hastert is finally able to communicate with Vice President Dick Cheney, who is at the White House. (Hastert had been trying to contact Cheney earlier on, but without success (see (9:04 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001.) Cheney tells Hastert: “There’s a real danger. I want you to go to a secure location.” [Hastert, 2004, pp. 8-9] Hastert gets on a helicopter and is flown to the secret underground bunker at Mount Weather in Bluemont, Virginia, 48 miles outside Washington—about 20 minutes journey by air. [Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 11/2001; ABC News, 9/15/2002; Bamford, 2004, pp. 81] In the following hours, other top members of the House and Senate leaderships will join him there (see (Between Late Morning and Early Afternoon) September 11, 2001). [ABC News, 9/11/2001; Hastert, 2004, pp. 10] Hastert remains at the secure facility for several hours, and will return to Washington late in the afternoon (see (Between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Daily Herald (Arlington Heights), 9/11/2002] Hastert’s evacuation to Mount Weather is the result of “Continuity of Government” (COG) orders, which provide for evacuating the third and fourth in the line of presidential succession during a national emergency, in order to protect the nation’s constitutional leadership. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002] Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke activated the COG plan shortly before 10:00 a.m. this morning (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Clarke, 2004, pp. 8]

Entity Tags: Mount Weather, Dennis Hastert, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline, Civil Liberties

After the US Capitol building in Washington is evacuated (see 9:48 a.m. September 11, 2001), many members of Congress go to the nearby Capitol Police headquarters for safety, but others head elsewhere and some go home. [Daschle and D'Orso, 2003, pp. 111-112] Although the Capitol began evacuating around 9:48, no one has instructions on where to go. “Rank-and-file lawmakers didn’t have guidance from their leaders or from Capitol Police.” [Washington Post, 1/27/2002] Many of them therefore remain in the vicinity of the Capitol building. [New York Times, 9/12/2001] Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) is quickly driven away by his security detail after being evacuated from the Capitol. However, according to Daschle, the contingency plan for emergencies “directed us to convene at the Hart Senate Building, right next to the Capitol. But that was considered unsafe in this situation.” Therefore, “Some members of Congress who lived in the area decided to simply go home.” Others convene at the 116 Club, a restaurant on Capitol Hill. “The remaining senators were finally directed to the Capitol Police headquarters a block and a half away, where it was decided members of Congress would be safest. That became Congress’s central command center for the rest of the day” (see (10:00 a.m.-6:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). However, while Daschle and some others are taken there early on (Daschle will recall being at the headquarters when the first World Trade Center tower collapses at 9:59), many others do not go there until later. [Daschle and D'Orso, 2003, pp. 111-112] Deputy Chief James Rohan of the Capitol Police keeps hearing complaints from his officers nearby the Capitol building, saying: “I’ve got all these congressmen wandering around here. What do you want me to do with them?” According to CNN, “the police assumed that those who weren’t in the [Congressional] leadership… would go home, but of course they didn’t.” Therefore, they are eventually brought to the Capitol Police headquarters as well. Several hundred members of Congress go to the headquarters during the day. [CNN, 9/11/2002] Around late morning or early afternoon, Congressional leaders leave there and are flown to a secure bunker outside Washington (see (Between Late Morning and Early Afternoon) September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 1/27/2002] Many other members of Congress remain at the headquarters throughout the afternoon. [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; Daschle and D'Orso, 2003, pp. 116-117]

Entity Tags: US Capitol Police, Tom Daschle, James Rohan

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Members of Congress who are assembled at the headquarters of the Capitol Police in Washington, DC receive regular briefings from police officers, but these reveal little more than what is being reported in the news. [Washington Post, 9/12/2001] After being evacuated from the Capitol building, many members of Congress go to the Capitol Police headquarters, located a block and a half away (see (9:55 a.m. and After) September 11, 2001). [Daschle and D'Orso, 2003, pp. 110-112] Throughout the day, several hundred of them go there, though some Congressional leaders are moved to a secure bunker outside Washington around late morning or early afternoon (see (Between Late Morning and Early Afternoon) September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 1/27/2002; CNN, 9/11/2002] According to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), the police headquarters becomes “Congress’s central command center for the rest of the day.” [Daschle and D'Orso, 2003, pp. 112] But, CNN will report, “In a place where power means knowing things, nobody knew very much.” Deputy Chief James Rohan of the Capitol Police later describes, “There was somebody [at the headquarters] had brought out a little four inch black and white TV with just an antenna stick on it, plugged it in, and they were getting all their information from the networks from this tiny little TV.” [CNN, 9/11/2002] The Senate and House members at the headquarters receive hourly briefings from Capitol Police officers. But, according to the Washington Post, “lawmakers privately described the sessions as ‘rudimentary,’ offering few details beyond published reports.” [Washington Post, 9/12/2001] According to Daschle, who is among those moved to the secure bunker outside Washington, members of Congress who remain at the police headquarters spend the day “crammed into several conference rooms and offices, working the telephones and watching the TV monitors for developing news,” though he gives no specific details of what they do. [Daschle and D'Orso, 2003, pp. 112] Late in the afternoon, about 50 of them speak by phone with the Congressional leaders at the secure bunker (see (5:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001), and during the evening, many of them will join the leaders on the steps of the Capitol building for a press conference (see 7:24 p.m. September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Tom Daschle, Capitol Police (Washington, DC), James Rohan

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Mount Weather.Mount Weather. [Source: Department of Homeland Security]Congressional leaders are evacuated from Washington and flown to Mount Weather, a secret and secure bunker in Virginia, where they remain until late in the afternoon. [Los Angeles Times, 9/12/2001; Washington Post, 1/27/2002; ABC News, 9/15/2002] The Capitol building was evacuated shortly after the Pentagon was hit (see 9:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). Most of the leadership teams of both parties subsequently assemble at the Capitol Police building. [Daschle and D'Orso, 2003, pp. 112] Around late morning or early afternoon, orders are given to take them to a secure location outside Washington. The Congressional leaders return to outside the Capitol building, and from there are flown by military helicopter to Mount Weather. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002] Each is allowed to bring one staff member with them. [Daschle and D'Orso, 2003, pp. 114] The Mount Weather Emergency Operations Facility in Bluemont, Virginia, is located 48 miles—about 20 minutes journey by air—from Washington. [Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 11/2001; ABC News, 9/15/2002] It was originally built to serve as the new seat of government if there was a nuclear war. [ABC News, 9/11/2001] The underground complex contains about 600,000 square feet of floor space, and can accommodate several thousand people. [Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 11/2001] It has extensive communication systems linking it to the nationwide network of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) bunkers, relocation sites, and the White House Situation Room. [Center for Land Use Interpretation Newsletter, 3/2002] Members of Congress taken to the facility include House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX), House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-TX), House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-MO), House Minority Whip David Bonior (D-MI), Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS), Assistant Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), and Senate Minority Whip Don Nickles (R-OK). [Hastert, 2004, pp. 10] Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL) was taken there earlier on (see (9:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Bamford, 2004, pp. 80-81] The Congressional leaders will remain at Mount Weather until later in the afternoon, and then return to the Capitol around 6:00 p.m. (see (Between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [ABC News, 9/15/2002; Daschle and D'Orso, 2003, pp. 116; Hastert, 2004, pp. 10] The decision to send them outside Washington on this day has its roots in a top secret program dating back to the cold war, which serves to ensure the “Continuity of Government” (COG) in the event of an attack on the US (see 1981-1992). [United Press International, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/11/2002; Mann, 2004, pp. 138-139] Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke activated the COG plan shortly before 10:00 a.m. this morning (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Clarke, 2004, pp. 8]

Entity Tags: Richard Gephardt, Harry Reid, David Bonior, Mount Weather, Tom DeLay, Dick Armey, Tom Daschle, Don Nickles, Trent Lott

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline, Civil Liberties

Congressional leaders who have been evacuated to a secure bunker in Virginia speak with other members of Congress back in Washington, and decide Congress will reconvene the following morning. [Daschle and D'Orso, 2003, pp. 116; Lott, 2005, pp. 221] Members of the House and Senate leaderships were evacuated to the Mount Weather Emergency Operations Facility in Bluemont, Virginia, during the morning and early afternoon (see (9:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Between Late Morning and Early Afternoon) September 11, 2001). [ABC News, 9/15/2002] Other senators and representatives have spent the day at the Capitol Police headquarters back in Washington. [Los Angeles Times, 9/12/2001] About 50 of them are now assembled in a first-floor conference room and speak by telephone with the leaders at Mount Weather. They all discuss when Congress should reconvene, with some wanting to do so this evening. It is decided that Congress will not reconvene until the following morning, but the leaders will return to Washington this evening, and then leaders and members will appear together to announce to the press that they will be back in session the next day. [Daschle and D'Orso, 2003, pp. 116; Lott, 2005, pp. 221] The Congressional leaders will return to Washington around 6:00 p.m. (see (Between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001) and their press conference is held around 7:25 (see 7:24 p.m. September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/11/2001; Hastert, 2004, pp. 10]

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Members of Congress gathered on the steps of the Capitol.Members of Congress gathered on the steps of the Capitol. [Source: US House of Representatives]Congressional leaders and about 150 other members of the House and Senate appear together on the steps of the Capitol building in Washington for a press conference, and announce that Congress will reconvene the following morning. [USA Today, 9/12/2001; Washington Post, 9/12/2001] House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) says: “Senators and House members, Democrats and Republicans will stand shoulder to shoulder to fight this evil that has perpetrated on this nation. We will stand together to make sure that those who have brought forth this evil deed will pay the price.” Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) calls the day’s attacks “an assault on our people and on our freedom,” and says, “We, Republicans and Democrats, House and Senate, stand strongly united behind the president and we’ll work together to ensure that the full resources of the government are brought to bear in these efforts.” To applause, he announces, “Congress will convene tomorrow.” The press conference ends with the members of Congress joining together for an apparently spontaneous singing of “God Bless America.” [CNN, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001; New York Times, 9/12/2001]

Entity Tags: Tom Daschle, Dennis Hastert

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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