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Former Speaker Paul Ryan reflects on 9/11 anniversary

Posted at 4:12 PM, Sep 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-12 00:15:23-04

On Saturday, the nation paused to reflect and remember the 3,000 lives lost September 11th, 2001. On this 20th anniversary, former Speaker Paul Ryan says they must never be forgotten.

TMJ4'S political reporter Charles Benson caught up with Ryan about how that terrible day changed a generation of lives.

Paul Ryan was a young, second term Congressman from Janesville in 2001. He was at the White House for a morning budget meeting that fateful day.

"It wasn't until the second plane hit the tower, that the people in the White House realized this was a terrorist attack," said Ryan.

Ryan rushed back to his Congressional office to see smoke rising from a hi-jacked plane that had crashed into the Pentagon.

Benson: How did that day change you?
Speaker Ryan: I hope it's the last day I ever feel that, again.

Ryan, who was elected on budget and economic issues - quickly found himself pivoting to a new reality.

"It changed everything for all of us, and so all of us in Congress, carved our own roles in how we can make a difference in the war on terror, we called it in those days," said Ryan.

That war included America's longest war in Afghanistan which just concluded with a deadly, chaotic departure.

Ryan made several trips to Afghanistan - his last while Speaker of the House.

President Biden says now was the right time to end the 'forever war and forever exit' but Ryan believes the U.S, should have kept up to 2500 troops in Afghanistan.

"The problem with Afghanistan is - if you're not there with some minimal degree of commitment, you're not going to be able to prevent something from materializing, said Ryan, or you're not going to have the actual intelligence you need to act when it's early enough to do something that's very convincing."

But Ryan knows the sacrifice has taken a toll on so many.

"An entire generation of Americans, since 9/11 changed the course of the trajectory of their lives to keep us safe." said Ryan. Some paid the ultimate sacrifice and it's really important that we never forget this."

During the 15th anniversary, Speaker Ryan said it was important that the stories of 9/11 are passed on to generations to come.

"They may not fully understand the horror of it all, but they can admire the heroism."

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