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Congress Pauses To Remember Sept. 11 Attacks

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Whether it was through Congressional hearings or a moment of silence, lawmakers in the nation’s capital, Washington paused to remember the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks. Washington Bureau reporter Erin Billups filed the following report.

After the World Trade Center fell and the Pentagon was attacked 11 years ago, lawmakers on Capitol Hill met on the front steps in an impromptu gathering to sing God Bless America.

It’s a tradition they've continued every year, since standing shoulder to shoulder, a rare show of unity these days.

"We need to remember that when times are difficult, we shouldn't be pointing at one another, we shouldn't be blaming one another," said Rep. Michael Grimm. "We should be coming together."

Lawmakers remembered what was lost on Sept. 11 and what could have been.

"Everyone in those hours, no matter their station, everyone stood their ground, the patriots who banded in the sky over Shanksville to save this Capitol and these steps," said House Speaker John Boehner.

Examining and strengthening national security is now commonplace in Washington.

"Our innocence was really taken from us," said Rep. Elliot Engel. "We're not the same. You go on an airplane, there's all kinds of scrutiny wherever we go now. We're used to it."

In one Congressional hearing Tuesday, House members heard testimony from Homeland Security Department heads about how the visa vetting process has improved.

"In response to 9/11 and evolving threats, we have significantly adapted and enhanced our ability to detect travel threats at the earliest opportunity," said Kelli Ann Walther of the Homeland Security Policy Office.

Still, Charles Edwards, the Department of Homeland Security's Acting Inspector General, said more can be done to have better communication between federal agencies and less duplication.

"Technological issues, resource deficiencies and interagency coordination presents significant challenges," Edwards said.

They're challenges, though, that the inspector general said they are constantly working to overcome.

Lawmakers said from what they can see, the hard work is paying off.

"I would say the country is safer," said Rep. Jose Serrano. "I'm sure that if we weren’t, something would have happened in these 11 years of that magnitude because I'm sure that those who want to hurt us haven't given up."

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