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When Washington D.C. came under attack on Sept. 11 ten years ago, the people who keep the city running were as shocked and surprised as the rest of the country, as they explain in their own words:
Kenneth Ellerbe, D.C. Fire and EMS Chief: "At the time I was a deputy chief in the operations division. I never got a call. As soon as the Pentagon was struck, I knew I had to go to work. [When the Twin Towers were hit] I had some of my own ominous predictions because I used to teach building construction in the fire service. I was in the deputy chief’s office watching television, and had predicted this event would bring the towers down because of the intensity of the jet fuel and the compromised structure.
I was concerned, but anytime an instant like that occurs in the country we are one unified body to a great degree and the hope and prayer was that everybody would turn out to be safe. But that didn’t turn out to be the case. It reminds me that we have a perilous job, we have a dangerous job."
Susan Peck, former chief technology officer for Washington D.C.: "I was at 13th and F St. NW at the National Press Club giving a talk, when two men came into the room where I was speaking and closed off the drapery on the windows. They shut the curtains, they said, 'Washington is being attacked.'
The next couple of days I just remember thinking over and over again what a strong, wonderful people we were, and that no matter what was happening, we were going to prevail.
Vincent C. Gray, Mayor for Washington D.C. : "I think we should remember the heroism of the people who literally gave their lives to save the lives of others. It probably was the most dramatic example of what it means to be an American in the history of this nation. People didn’t flinch working to try to save others. And I hope that’s what we remember most about this, that the American spirit –- even in the wake of this tragedy in the wake of the confusion -- stepped up to do what was necessary in order to work to preserve freedom, to work to preserve life.
D.C. is a different city now, and frankly the things we did freely prior to 9/11 we can’t do anymore. I think 9/11 forever has changed the sensibilities of Washingtonians, and security that people felt before.