By Liz Ruskin Anchorage Daily News (Published: September 12, 2001)
Washington -- Sen. Ted Stevens, like everyone else in Congress, cleared out of his office when he was told to Tuesday morning, but he said Congress will convene today with unified determination to find those responsible for the attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., and punish them.
"We don't know yet who we are at war with now, but we are at war," said Stevens, R-Alaska. "Very clearly this is war."
And, he said, it's clear the United States will deliver "terrible retribution" once it finds out who is responsible.
"We're going to unleash the power of the greatest nation in the world," he said.
Alaska's Sen. Frank Murkowski and Rep. Don Young also vowed retribution. "I can assure you that the perpetrators of these murders will be rooted out and brought to justice," Murkowski said in a written statement issued just as his staff was evacuated from the Hart Office Building. "War has been declared as far as terrorists go," Young said in a phone interview from his home.
Young warned against rushing to the conclusion that Middle Eastern terrorists were responsible. There's some possibility, he said, that the attacks are linked to the protests against the World Trade Organization, another of which is scheduled for later this month in Washington, D.C. "If you watched what happened (at past protests) in Genoa, in Italy, and even in Seattle, there's some expertise in that field," Young said. "I'm not sure they're that dedicated but eco-terrorists -- which are really based in Seattle -- there's a strong possibility that could be one of the groups."
Stevens said he feels the terrorists must have been foreign.
"I can't, in my heart, believe that an American would be involved in that," Stevens said.
The very sophistication of the attack means those behind it will be found out, Stevens said.
"Look at the type of planes that have been used. . . . It's not normal to have that many people who can step in and fly 757s and 767s," he said. "They've been in simulators somewhere. They've been trained somewhere. They've been coordinated somewhere."
Jen Siciliano, a Stevens aide, said after the strike on the Pentagon, she figured it was time to leave her office in the Capitol. A calm procession headed for the building exits.
"Just as we almost got to the (door), something came over the Capitol Police radio and they just started screaming get out!' and 'get down!' " she said.
As she stepped outside, she saw a low-flying plane overhead.
"I've never been so scared in my life, she said.
The jet, it turns out, was harmless, but she figures it was what alarmed the Capitol Police.
Stevens, a veteran of World War II, said he wasn't frightened for his own welfare.
"I think some of us in my generation have seen enough war to not get disturbed by this," he said referring to his feelings about his personal safety.
While the Senate leadership met in the security of an undisclosed location, other lawmakers joined evacuated staffers on a commercial stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue southeast of the Capitol, where the sidewalk cafes -- those that stayed open -- did brisk late-morning business. Short lines formed at pay phones and ATMs.
Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, R-N.Y., was among several dozen people who went to St. Peter's Church, two blocks from the Capitol, for the noon Mass.
"I'm just torn up inside. You don't know what's going on," he said. "I went to the place that had the most meaning."
The Rev. Michael O'Sullivan of St. Peter's urged prayer for the day's victims, their families and especially for the children who would be left without mothers and fathers.
"As we contemplate the madness and sins . . . ask for the forgiveness of man, he told the congregation.
The clergyman's voice was repeatedly drowned out by the wail of sirens. Reporter Liz Ruskin can be reached at 202-383-0007 or firstname.lastname@example.org.: