SPRINGFIELD, Mo — Senator Roy Blunt and Representative Billy Long share their memories from the day terrorists attacked the World Trade Center.
Today, Senator Blunt is in the process of finishing out his last term ahead of his retirement. But on September 11th, 2001, Blunt was serving in the House of Representatives for Missouri’s 7th District. Blunt was on Capitol Hill that day.
“On 9/11, when that first plane hit, I was doing a fundraiser for Senator Tim Hutchinson. A message came in through somebody at that breakfast fundraiser at the Capitol that a plane had hit the World Trade Center,” Blunt says.
Blunt continued to his next stop on his schedule that day: A meeting with Blue Cross Blue Shield members from Missouri to discuss healthcare.
“I then went to my office in the Capitol. I was the Chief Deputy Whip at the time, so my principal office was in the Capitol itself,” Blunt explains.
During that time, the second plane hit the World Trade Center, and a third plane had hit the Pentagon.
“There was a clear effort to get everybody out of the Capitol. What I began to do at that point after calling people in my family – was calling local news (in Springfield). I think I called your station, a couple of different radio stations. Just to report what I knew,” says Blunt.
At that time in Springfield, a future politician was live on the air on the radio. Billy Long explains his experience from that day.
“I was an auctioneer and real estate broker at the time, but I was also doing a talk show here in Springfield on KWTO, ‘Bonnie and Billy’ on the morning line,” Long says.
Congressman Billy Long now serves Missouri’s 7th District in the U.S. House, the same seat Roy Blunt held on 9/11. But the tragedy struck nearly a decade before Long was elected as a public official for the first time.
“We were actually on the air at KWTO. We had a caller call in. He goes, ‘Oh my gosh, there goes another one.’ He was watching on TV. He goes, ‘That was a 737,'” Long says.
At that moment, the speculation began.
“I looked at Bonnie, and I said, ‘They have hijacked our commercial airliners, and they’re flying them into buildings.’ She says, ‘Oh Billy, you can’t say that you’ll alarm people,'” Long recalls.
“I said, ‘Can you say Osama Bin Laden?'”
Their show went off the air 20 minutes later, and Long left the station. As the situation continued to unfold, he got a call.
“About an hour later, I get this panicked call from the station saying, ‘Get back up here. You and Bonnie are going live.’ So we went back on the rest of the day.”
Long recalls the streets of Springfield being lined with cars trying frantically to get a tank of gas, as Long and his co-host tried to keep people calm.
It was a day that will never be forgotten, not only because of the act itself, but for the way it made Americans feel, even in the aftermath.
“The country pulled together 100% like I’ve never seen it pull together in my lifetime. Again, that was 20 years ago,” says Long.
Though that unity came off the heels of one of the most tragic days in American history, Blunt believes Americans still have it in them to band together.
“It doesn’t mean we still don’t have the potential to unite when we need to.”