Sept. 11, 2001 – Delegate to Congress Donna Christian Christensen went into her Capitol Hill office early Tuesday morning, hours before suspected terrorists launched kamikaze attacks on the nearby Pentagon and New York City's World Trade Center.
The territory’s representative had gone to work earlier than normal to complete a speech for a meeting she was scheduled to attend later that day in Maryland. It wasn’t until she was on the road when she heard the unbelievable on the radio. She turned around and headed back to the nation’s capital where smoke was billowing from the Pentagon, the inner sanctum of the U.S. military.
"It was utter disbelief that this type of thing could be happening," Christensen related Tuesday evening from Washington, which, like Congress, was literally shut down earlier in the day. "We’re pretty much numb."
That shock, however, must be shaken off quickly as the House will convene Wednesday to draft a resolution condemning the attacks, Christensen said.
There was some debate among House members on whether there should be a session following the tragedies. But after a conference call with House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D.,Mo.) and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R., Ill.), it was decided to continue conducting the people’s business.
While the decision was made to show the world that the country wouldn’t be brought to its knees, Christensen said it wasn’t an easy one to make considering that no one is really sure that the attacks have ceased.
Whether it is safe, she said, is "really with the [Bush] administration at this point."
"We need to go back to do work, but we shouldn’t be daredevils about it," she said. "I don’t think we have anything to prove to anyone at this point."
As for striking back at whomever is responsible for the deadly attacks, the delegate said she had mixed feelings. On one hand, she said U.S. officials need to identify the terrorists, where they come from and "make sure they pay."
On the other hand, Christensen said that the United States, particularly national security experts, must learn more about the rabid dislike for the U.S. in some parts of the world, especially when retaliatory strikes will only pour more fuel on the smoldering hate.
"I’m not for fanning those fires just to say we are a big powerful country," she said. "We need to take a look at that."
Meanwhile, Christensen echoed the sentiments of Gov. Charles Turnbull that residents of the territory should be vigilant even though the islands are thousands of miles away from the death and destruction.
"I don’t think the Virgin Islands are under any specific threat," she said. "But it doesn’t hurt to be cautious."


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