Georgia’s senior congressman recalls personal cost of 9/11

Credit: AP Pool

Credit: AP Pool

U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop details fateful day 19 years ago in Washington

U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop was in his Washington, D.C., apartment when a group of terrorists crashed a jet into the Pentagon.

“I heard a couple of explosions, but I had no idea what was going on,” Bishop, the senior member of Georgia’s congressional delegation, recalled. “I looked out our balcony window and saw black smoke coming from that area, but didn’t know what had happened.”

Bishop and his wife then left the apartment, and she dropped him off at the Rayburn House Office Building, then went to a local dry cleaners.

“I went up to my office and the TV was on, showing the Twin Towers burning,” Bishop said. “An alarm then went off that called for the evacuation of the building.”

Traffic was snarled around the Capitol, and Bishop’s wife eventually abandoned their car and rushed to meet her husband outside the Capitol.

“We didn’t know the Pentagon was part of the terror attacks at that time,” Bishop said. “We eventually got back to our car, and what was normally a five-minute drive back to our apartment lasted an hour and 45 minutes.”

Nineteen years later, Bishop still feels the human cost of 9/11. A former staff member had resigned shortly before the terror attacks and had moved with her new husband to New Jersey.

“Her husband worked as a manager for a firm in the World Trade Center,” Bishop said. “He kissed her goodbye that day, and she never saw him again.”

Bishop said the events of 9/11 forever changed the nation, changes that continue to this day.

“The Department of Homeland Security was formed in response to 9/11, and our vulnerabilities have forced us to recognize them and address them,” Bishop said. "We have to be very aware of our power grids, traffic patterns, food supplies. There’s no question we’re better prepared for a terror attack than we were back then, but the big question is, are we well enough prepared?

“That remains to be seen."