My first job out of college was assisting with military casework for former U.S. Congressman Gene Taylor in the Gulfport, Mississippi, district office. I was at a financial services office during the bulk of the attack watching on TV. My dad had been pestering me about opening a Roth IRA. The financial adviser was trying to talk to me about an investment strategy, and I didn’t know much about the topic at the time. The discussion obviously pivoted toward the events unfolding on his office television. We both silently watched as the South Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed.

We quickly ended the early morning appointment after the surreal scene of the tower coming down. What else was there to do? Talk more about mutual funds?

Still not knowing the extent of the attack on our homeland,  two FBI agents were guarding the doors of Congressman Taylor’s office when I showed up. I’ll never forget how serious and intimidating they looked. Because I can be a wise guy, I made a mental note to not make a joke or poke fun at their demeanor. The agents and I both worked for the federal government, but I remember thinking they had a much more important job than I did at the time, too. I think it’s the last time in my life I had a federal security detail, at least while I was in the physical office.

One agent stayed at the door for a few weeks. I mostly remember fielding calls from pissed-off constituents in South Mississippi that week. I enjoyed talking to them. They wanted revenge. I was glad they were angry. We all were. There was a genuine sense of national unity, for a period of time.

As the weeks rolled by I tried to share a few jokes with the agent on duty. They didn’t have much of a sense of humor, and I remember thinking the FBI probably wouldn’t be a great cultural fit for me as a career. They carried guns and I was still just a kid working for a U.S. Congressman. Still, I was glad to be doing something important and helpful at the time for our nation. Unlike a lot of politicians, Gene Taylor is a good guy, and I appreciate the opportunity he gave me just out of school.

This personal account originally published on Carolina Journal on the twentieth anniversary of the terror attacks on the United States, September 11, 2001.