Turn back the clock. So long as you remember that day will not be forgotten. In the 20 year shadow of that date, much has been gained and lost. To many an American on this anniversary, the hope remains that we will have the courage to always remember.
The September 11th attacks reconfirmed the bind that ties Americans together, something immaterial, perhaps seen from time to time before, but mostly unspoken. Americans banded together, turned to their communities, and saw what was happening in New York, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania as an attack on themselves.
Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer, told The Cats Roundtable some of the things he saw that day have haunted him for 20 years. Like many, the day seemed normal, almost mundane. Schumer was in the House gym when he learned a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. He recalled the anguish that washed over those with him as the second plane hit the second tower.
As he saw Flight 77 hit the Pentagon, Schumer told The Cats Roundtable he called thinking, “Oh, my God, this is World War 3.”
By the next day, he was in New York City. The Majority Leader spoke solemnly with The Cats Roundtable about the scene he witnessed.
“The saddest thing that I will never forget, and think of almost every day, is there was a line of maybe a thousand or two thousand people, lined up with forlorn looks on their faces, holding up pictures,” Schumer said.
After meeting with New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani that evening, when he learned of the estimated tens of billions of dollars in damages to the city, Schumer met then-President Bush in Washington, who had just asked for 20 billion dollars for the War on Terror.
“I said, ‘Mr. President, New York really needs 20 billion in addition to the money you’re allocating and asking congress for the country,’” Schumer explained. Bush didn’t hesitate. He approved the money.
As Senate Majority Leader, such unflinching gestures of bipartisanship have been few and far between for Schumer. He told The Cats Roundtable he was “optimistic” Biden’s “bipartisan” infrastructure bill and the “build back better” bill would be approved by Congress, but admitted there were hurdles to jump.
“It’s going to be a huge shot in the arm for New York, and a whole lot of other places,” Schumer said about the bills. “I’m optimistic we can get it done, even though it’s not going to be easy.”
The difficulty comes from a web of contingencies that could sideline one or both of Biden’s spending bills. While many Senate Republicans have come out in support of the infrastructure bill, they have flat out refused the “build back better” bill, with some swing Democrats also disagreeing with the spending. But Senator Bernie Sanders, who heads the budget committee, has vowed there would be no infrastructure bill unless the “build back better” bill is passed.
The unity that seemed to grow across the aisles of Congress in the twin shadow of September 11th seems to be just as distant as the day itself. But to remember, when grievances were buried in the light of a shared tragedy. As the memory of that dark morning, what bonds us is not so distant.