9/11 Stories: U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

On 9/11, then a New York City attorney living in Manhattan, now-U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was a newlywed, married less than six months.

On 9/11, Gillibrand and her husband were on the first day of a trip in the Berkshire mountains with her in-laws. She was watching TV in the morning and remembers crying when the second tower was hit. It turns out one of her father’s best friends died in one of the towers. Gillibrand’s sister was supposed to get married the next weekend but the wedding was postponed because flights were grounded. When her sister got married in Las Vegas weeks later, Gillibrand didn’t go to the wedding, too fearful of flying. It took her months before she could fly.

Living 6 miles away from Ground Zero, Gillibrand says every day for weeks, she could see the smoldering fire with a horrible smell permeating the city. She says she knew right away, just from the smell, that the air was a health hazard, despite EPA Commissioner Christine Todd Whitman declaring a week after 9/11, that the air was safe.

In 2009, Kirsten Gillibrand was sworn into the 111th U.S, Senate as the junior Senator from New York State. The first job senior Senator Charles Schumer gave her was to head up the Senate effort to pass the 9/11 Health bill, which was languishing in the Senate though it had support in the House. It became the law the next year, passed unanimously by the Senate.

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