Overcoming Great Challenges for Our Country

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett

By U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett

When Hurricane Harvey struck, it brought the worst flooding in recent memory, but more importantly; it brought out what is best about Texas. We saw not just first responders, but also neighbors putting their community first, working to save their neighbors. The worst of times brings out the best in people. As we now recall the anniversary of 9/11, we also recall how our country rises to meet great challenges.

At 9:51 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, I was working in my Washington office when the fire alarm sounded and the Capitol police instructed us to evacuate the building. My staff and I joined the orderly departure and proceeded to my nearby D.C. residence. Once the roads and the sidewalks emptied, the usually frantic pace of Washington was replaced with a somber, quiet city. Only the occasional siren, the roar of jet fighters, and whirling helicopter blades punctured the silence.

The U.S. Capitol, federal buildings, landmarks, and the museums were all cordoned off.  Some were blocked with flares, some with simple orange cones, others with more substantial barriers or squad cars positioned to let no vehicle pass. At the Tidal Basin, I was struck by the sight of the Pentagon’s gray smoke wafting up from behind the white marble Jefferson Memorial. On its walls, Jefferson’s timeless words are inscribed:  “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”

That evening I joined my fellow Members of Congress at the same spot on the Capitol steps where Abraham Lincoln was sworn in as our President during an earlier time of trouble, and we pledged to work together to resolve this crisis. We lent our presence in support of uniting our Nation in a time of tribulation and our voices in an impromptu rendition of “God Bless America.”  Now, when it feels as though our country’s leaders are at constant war with one another, we must remember that war is hardly the answer, and that our strength derives from our unity. There is so much more that binds us than divides us.

As we mark this anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, while we are reminded of its horrors, what helps sustain us is the memory of its heroes, the first responders and others who put service ahead of self.  We are reminded of the continuing sacrifice those in uniform make every day.

We must remain vigilant in confronting the ongoing threats we face, but we must also preserve those traits that define us as a Nation – equality, freedom, and the opportunity for every person, regardless of their race, gender, ethnicity, to fulfill their own American dream. Whether it is countering Russian interference in our democracy, combatting the brutality of ISIS, or averting nuclear threats from North Korea, we need to continue working with our allies to ensure the safety of our families.

On this anniversary, we honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, those who struggle to this day, and those who stepped in in unmeasurable ways. We thank those who have shown the same commitment in the wake of a powerful hurricane. We must work together and preserve the blessings of liberty that our Founding Fathers enshrined in our Constitution. As one Nation, stronger together, we can do more to strengthen our security, health, and freedom.