"We'll join in the mourning of those we lost," said Sen. John Warner, R-Va., before heading to the Pentagon. "We're grateful for the stronger nation we are today, and the indomitable spirit of our citizens."
A year ago, House and Senate members stood shocked outside the Capitol looking at the black plume of smoke rising from the Pentagon across the Potomac River, an image that stayed with many of them.
On Wednesday, they joined President Bush at the Pentagon for a memorial service before returning to the Capitol for a day of remembrance through speeches and proclamations. "The Pentagon, of course, is a symbol of our government," said Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D. "I just want to be there."
For some lawmakers, the day was about remembering the heroes of Flight 93, whose passengers and crew have been hailed as heroes for struggling to take back their hijacked plane from four terrorists. House and Senate members believe the fourth airliner would have struck the Capitol if it had not been stopped by the passengers.
"It is a day to remember that this Capitol would have been struck a year ago today but for the heroism of the people on the flight that went down in Pennsylvania," said House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., as he and House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., led House members and workers in a moment of silence across from the Capitol.
"Today is a day to remember how fortunate we all are to be alive," Gephardt said.
Two al Qaeda fugitives also told satellite station Al-Jazeera that the Capitol was the fourth American landmark on al Qaeda's Sept. 11 hit list. However, Abu Zubaydah, a top al Qaeda leader in U.S. custody, told interrogators that the White House was the fourth plane's target, U.S. officials have said.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., almost burst into tears Tuesday as she brought to the Senate chamber some of the pictures of the 54 Californians who died in the attacks. All of the planes that crashed Sept. 11 were on their way to California, and Boxer, tears welling up in her eyes, said each of the victims should be remembered in the Senate history books.
"If I cannot get through this, I will put it in the record," she said, taking deep breaths and struggling through the list.