Two San Diego County supervisors, who were in Washington, D.C. when the Sept. 11 attacks took place, said they were amazed by how the busy capitol completely emptied in the face of the threat.
Supervisor Greg Cox, who represents Coronado, was there with Supervisor Ron Roberts to accept an award for the county's work on Escondido's San Pasqual Academy, a residential school for foster teens, and to touch base with the local congressional delegation.
Cox, along with Roberts, reflected on the attacks ahead of the 10th anniversary on Sunday.
Cox said he had come out of a meeting with former Rep. Duncan Hunter at the Rayburn House Office Building when he saw aides gathered around a television and a security guard rushing down a hallway.
“You could tell something was up,” Cox said.
Amid the initial panic, there was misinformation. The guard told him the National Mall was on fire, a car bomb had struck the State Department and a helicopter flew into the Pentagon, he said.
It turned out the Pentagon had been hit, by a hijacked passenger plane, one of four commandeered by terrorists who targeted Washington D.C. and New York city. Nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks.
Cox said he had to walk 26 blocks to his hotel through a
scene of “pandemonium” while he vainly tried to reach his daughter,
Elizabeth, who was then a student at George Washington University.
“I couldn't reach her because the phones were so jammed, but I did get a hold of my wife,” he said.
His wife, Cheryl Cox, now Chula Vista's mayor, filled him in on what had taken place and told him his daughter was home safe at her apartment, which is where he ended up.
Cox will appear at a halftime 9/11 commemoration at the Vikings-Chargers game at Qualcomm Stadium Sunday. He will present a county proclamation saluting public safety workers.
Roberts said in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, the streets were “total gridlock,” but later, so quiet it was “eerie.”
“You could walk down the middle of the street without worry,” Roberts said.
The San Pasqual awards presentation – scheduled for the evening of Sept. 11 – was canceled, so Cox and Roberts spent the next several days trying to get home. It was a struggle as flights were grounded as authorities investigated the attacks.
After three days, Cox rented a van at Reagan National Airport
and a group of San Diegans, plus Roberts' daughter and son-in-law, who live in Northern California, piled in and headed south. They finally picked up a flight out of Nashville and arrived home Sept 15.
City News Service contributed to this report.
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