Alaska's congressional delegation recalls Sept. 11

Posted: Monday, September 11, 2006

FAIRBANKS - The two members of Alaska's current congressional delegation who were in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 11, 2001, personally experienced a bit of the fear and confusion created by the terrorist attacks.

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Five years later, with more security legislation in the works and with warfare continuing in Iraq and Afghanistan, the attacks are still shaping their lives as legislators.

Rep. Don Young was being driven into his office from his house in northern Virginia when a former aide, C.J. Zane, called him with the news of the World Trade Center jet strikes. "About that time, they hit the Pentagon so we turned right around and came back home," the congressman told reporters in a phone call later that day.

Sen. Ted Stevens had just stepped into his Capitol Hill offices when the jets hit. With rumors of another plane in the air, he followed instructions and also drove to his house, in northwest Washington. The trip, normally 15 minutes, took him more than two hours.

"I did think I might run out of gas, I was stalled so long," the Republican senator told reporters.

Stevens, in an interview Friday, said the terrorist attacks still reverberate in Congress.

"Even today on the floor of the Senate, we have the port security bill and the railroad security bill, joined together - three committees forgetting about jurisdictional differences and trying to add to the powers of the people who are trying to keep those areas of our economy safe and free of terrorism," he said.

Young has criticized the USA Patriot Act, the most high-profile piece of legislation that Congress passed in reaction to the attacks. Nevertheless, he also said Friday that the work to secure the country must go on.

"I will continue to do everything in my legislative power to support this nation's efforts against this faceless enemy," Young said in a statement released by his office. Young is chairman of the House Transportation Committee through the end of this year and holds a senior position on the House Homeland Security Committee.

Stevens, who supported the Patriot Act, said he believes the country has dealt well with the new threat of terrorism. Other nations, including those in Europe and the Middle East, have suffered for decades from terrorist acts, but the United States so far has not followed that pattern, he said.

"We've been fortunate in that we have tried to meet the terrorists abroad rather than have them come here to change our life any more," he said.

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