WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe and Rep. Frank Lucas, the only current Oklahoma members of Congress in office on Sept. 11, 2001, recalled their memories of that horrific day.
The two veteran Republicans also spoke of the changes they and the nation have experienced.
Inhofe was speaking to a large delegation from the State Chamber of Oklahoma on the top floor of a Senate office building with a panoramic view of the Capitol city.
"Right in the middle of the speech, I saw this huge amount of smoke coming from the direction of Pentagon. I called their attention to it," Inhofe said.
According to the senator, confirmation of an attack on the headquarters of the nation’s military came from then-Sen. Don Nickles, who was to be the next speaker and had received a call from a daughter.
Inhofe said he learned about the New York City attack from others who had entered the room.
He soon joined other senators in a joint briefing conducted for the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence committees.
"It changed other people more than me," Inhofe said of the 2001 attacks, adding that he has always been concerned about the level of sophistication of terrorism.
He cited 40 terrorist plots the U.S. has been successful in stopping.
Still, Inhofe expressed concern that, as a country, the U.S. is still not where it should be in fighting terrorism.
"I think we are a country that recognizes, not to the extent that we should, the vulnerability we have," he said. "We are not as aware as we should be."
Rep. Frank Lucas was in his Washington office, waiting for a meeting with the Oklahoma Bankers Association.
"A former staffer came to my office and said there was a fire in New York City," Lucas recalled, adding that he and top aides watched television as the second plane hit the World Trade Center.
"We then realized that something horrible was going on and we were watching more than a fire."
Shortly after that, the Capitol Police ordered full evacuation of the office building.
"I never will forget the policeman coming in and hearing the intensity in his voice telling us we all had to leave the building," Lucas said.
He joined others on the street and watched the smoke rise from the Pentagon.
"I will never feel completely secure again. Now knowing there are people who want to kill and hurt others badly enough to take their own lives in the process makes tragedies such as this hard to prevent," Lucas said.