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12 minutes, 24 months

National | PERSONAL EXPERIENCE: A United States congressman remembers the horror of the longest 12 minutes of his life

Issue: "Arafat: The devil you know," Sept. 20, 2003

Just like everyone else, I was going through my "normal" workday routine at the Capitol when I learned of the attacks in New York City and the Pentagon.

I vividly remember the Capitol complex being evacuated. I was whisked away by the Capitol Police to the top floor of their headquarters where I met up with House and Senate leaders.

The moment I arrived, an officer informed us that an inbound airplane was "12 minutes out." The congressional leaders in the room began to discuss options and capabilities as I stood by and watched the Capitol Dome out the window.

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We waited.

That was the longest 12 minutes of my life.

Thanks to the leadership of President George W. Bush, those 12 minutes have turned into 24 months.

As we remember those lives lost in the tragedy of Sept. 11, the biggest victory for the president and this country is that there has not been a successful attack since we were told that the airplane was "12 minutes out."

This should give all Americans reason to hope.

In the weeks after the attack, the United States formed a broad coalition and destroyed terrorist training camps in Afghanistan. We also acted in Iraq, where the former regime ruled with brutal tactics, sponsored terror, possessed and used weapons of mass destruction, and for 12 years ignored the demands of the UN Security Council.

Before Sept. 11, terrorists feared nothing. There was no threat of sustained response when innocent people were attacked or killed. They thought we were weak.

They were wrong.

The tragedy of two years ago has turned into this generation's calling. We have risen to the task of fighting terrorism at home and abroad.

My three young children often visit me in my Capitol Hill office. Oftentimes I take them with me to vote on the House floor.

As we walk across Independence Avenue to the Capitol building I can't help but think of that dreadful day two years ago when the plane was "12 minutes out" and how close our Capitol came to being destroyed.

I look at my children and wonder what their generation will face. The only certainty is that only God knows what lies in the path ahead.

We must have confidence knowing that He brought us together in this fight and He has truly protected America the past 24 months.

I have often told my colleagues that God blesses those nations that acknowledge Him. My hope for the next generation is that they will acknowledge our sovereign God and have faith in Him.

I pray that God will continue to bless America as we find our calling and duty in protecting the freedom and human dignity that comes with it.

-Rep. Pence is a second-term U.S. House member from Indiana's 6th District

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