WASHINGTON ― The lawmakers on Capitol Hill opened their mouths and said the words again as they prepared to leave town for the weekend that would mark 15 years since terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center.
The words were some variety of “never forget.”
“This weekend America will remember not only the horror of those attacks, but also the heroism of our response,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Thursday on the Senate floor, spilling a little bit of the glory on himself.
“It is impossible to forget the horrible events of that day, and the pain and grief and mourning that our country felt,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the No. 2 Republican in the Senate.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) also pledged to never forget in his part of a 10-minute remembrance ceremony on the steps of the Capitol on Friday.
He added the proviso that it was up to the people who lived through those grim days to ensure that kids who did not witness Sept. 11 appreciate what the sacrifices meant.
“Do they fully understand what happened that day? Will they ever? Can they?” said Ryan, who recalled how he couldn’t get a flight home and had to drive.
The words sound right. But forgive the people who actually responded to the nightmare of that clear, warm September morning if they don’t think the lawmakers understand, or don’t believe their pronouncements. Forgive them if they look askance at three men who ― just last year ― never used their power to ease the way for a new 9/11 health and compensation law, who never even signed on as sponsors of that legislation.
“These guys. That’s a typical politician bullshit line,” said Ray Pfeifer, a former New York City firefighter who counts himself lucky to be still battling cancers linked to Sept. 11. “They want to be patriots when it’s convenient for them.”
And when others are in need, it’s usually not convenient.