My personal reflection on 20 years since 9/11

President George W. Bush addresses guests on the South Lawn of the White House, Friday, Sept. 9, 2005, during the 9/11 Heroes Medal of Valor Award Ceremony, and to honor the courage and commitment of emergency services personnel who died on Sept. 11, 2001. White House photo by Paul Morse


September 11, 2001 was a dark day for the world and one that reshaped the way we live. For me, the memories are vivid, and they are also part of a larger story.

It was a beautiful morning in Washington, D.C., when I went to work as a Special Assistant to President George W. Bush. We had just welcomed Mexican President Vicente Fox on the south lawn of the White House several days earlier. The day before, I had taken a friend visiting from Texas to the White House Mess for lunch. On the morning of 9/11, I was walking up a narrow stairway in the West Wing just as I heard shouting, and Secret Service Agents hurtled past me down the stairs. I knew something was very wrong.

My colleagues and I were soon glued to the TV in my office in the Old Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House, watching another plane knife through the second tower of the World Trade Center. I had rushed over to the West Wing to seek guidance from my boss, but the guidance came to us in the form of agents shouting for us to evacuate. I did not realize it at the time, but I presumed this urgency was because the White House was under imminent attack from another plane. As I ran from the White House, I saw the scrum of agents hustling the Vice President to a secure location. I thought of my staff and ran back to my office to pass on the word and help them evacuate. I was fortunate to have access to a building nearby where we waited for hours, before finding our way home where we all awaited an uncertain future. My job quickly changed that day to assisting President Bush and his senior team develop an operation and put together a team that would coordinate Homeland Security efforts under Governor Tom Ridge.

As I reflect on the 20 years since that day, including service at the United Nations as Ambassador to the Security Council, I come away with the understanding of the limitations of a military solution to any global challenge and the importance of diplomacy.

At Meridian I am proud of the fact that we are committed to helping connect the United States and international leaders, and building networks to advance security, prosperity and equity in the world. Our hearts go out to the Afghans who today are dealing with the aftermath of the conflict, which for many of them endures to this day. We have helped train and develop hundreds of these young leaders from Afghanistan and we hope they will not be forgotten and have an opportunity to rebuild their lives.

It has been said that “while history may not repeat itself it does rhyme.” As we remember those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001 – and in recent weeks in Kabul – we should bear in mind all the lessons over the past 20 years and honor the departed through a renewed commitment to ensure that our nation stays safe by remaining globally engaged.