Magazine article Humanities

In His Own Words: Recalling 9-11

Magazine article Humanities

In His Own Words: Recalling 9-11

Article excerpt

David McCullough delivered Nebraska's Sixth Annual Governor's Lecture in the Humanities in September of 2001, nine days after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. He took a moment from his lecture to talk about the experience.

I would like to tell you where my wife, Rosalee, and I were when we heard the word. We were in Washington. We were staying at the Hay-Adams Hotel, right across from the White House, across Lafayette Square. We had come to Washington to attend the National Book Festival, organized by Mrs. Bush, and put on by the Library of Congress. A wonderful expression of the spirit of the humanities if ever there was.

Some fifty authors came from all over the country. It was held on the beautiful park outside between the Capitol and the Library of Congress. There were tents. There were children's authors. There were things for children to do. There were mystery writers. There were fiction authors. Biographers, historians, all the reach and variety of the printed word. There were people from everywhere, all ages, all kinds. It was a beautiful sunny day, it was a festival. And there was the first lady having lunch on a bench on a sidewalk with others around her. The essence of the open society.

The next day, Sunday, because we were staying in the Hay-Adams, right across from St. John's Church, the little church known as the Church of the Presidents, I went out for a walk early in the morning and noticed that there were a great many police around the church and I thought that maybe the president would be coming to the Church of the Presidents this morning. I spoke to the doorman, and I said, "It looks like the president is going to church," and he said, "Yes, he is." I said, "Do you happen to know if he goes to the eight o'clock or the nine o'clock service?" He said, "He goes to the eight o'clock service." I decided that we were not going to just watch out the windows. We were going to go.

So we got dressed in about six minutes, crossed the street, and went into the church. There was a security check set up there, as you go through in airports. We went in and there were no more than about twenty people, at most, in the church. We took a seat, about the eighth row, and some other people came in and sat down in front of us. Then about four minutes to eight, the president, first lady, and their very small entourage came in from a side door, went down the aisle and sat a few rows behind us. …

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