I knew this was going to happen. I had been told and warned it was only a matter of time. I never expected to be part of history in this manner. I certainly did not know it was going to occur on this day, at this time.
I came to Washington with a group of Los Angelenos as part of a tour tied to the national quarterly meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition. We had arrived on Saturday, September 8th, and began what most political junkies would perceive as a dream five days. We had lined up members of the cabinet, the Chief Justice, and others. We had political leaders and policy wonks scheduled higher than the corn in Kansas.
As fate would have it, Monday, the 10th, was our foreign policy day. We started with a briefing by the Israeli Ambassador and his staff and followed that with a briefing from the #2 person at the Jordanian Embassy. We went next to lunch. At the time, I characterized this meeting as one of the high points of the trip.
At lunch we had both Frank Gaffney and Steven Emerson speak to us. Mr. Gaffney is a top expert on missile defense and Mr. Emerson is the preeminent expert on Islamic Terrorism. Anyone would have walked out of the room trembling after hearing their insights. These are the same messages that they have been delivering for years. None of us had the premonition of what was soon to happen.
We went from lunch to a tour of the Pentagon. We entered the building in the area that would soon be destroyed. A tour guide from the army met us; a nice young man hoping to be made a sergeant soon. He was proud of how he had mastered walking backwards and talking to groups. We don’t know whether he is with us today.
Torie Clarke, from the public affairs division, briefed us followed by Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld’s chief deputy. We left with a much greater understanding of the world facing us. We exited the Pentagon with no thought that in 17 fateful hours the area we were leaving would be a fiery deathtrap.
We capped this wonderfully, enlightening day with a private meeting with Attorney General John Ashcroft. The meeting was held in the office of the Solicitor General, Ted Olson. The same man whose wife would call him from the plane that attacked the Pentagon.
By the end of the day, we were worn, but exhilarated.
The next day, Tuesday, we loaded our bus to go to the Capitol. Our plan was a guided tour of the Capitol by a couple of friendly Congressmen, followed by lunch at the Capitol with visits from Senators and other Congressmen. This was to be capped with the highlight of our trip, a guided tour of the Supreme Court by Chief Justice Rehnquist.