Authors: Jeanette Torres
(WASHINGTON) -- Ten years ago Sunday, a little known Illinois state Senator was driving his car down Lake Shore Drive on his way to a legislative hearing at the James R. Thompson Center, the state building in the middle of Chicago’s Loop. He turned the dial on his radio and heard the news that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.
Like many Americans, Sen. Barack Obama assumed it had been a small plane with mechanical difficulties. By the time he got to the hearing, however, a second plane had crashed into the other tower. It had become clear that the crashes had been intentional and that there would likely be thousands of casualties.
Thompson Center was evacuated, and Chicagoans -- including Sen. Obama -- were fearful that Chicago’s Sears Tower might be next. He went to the law offices of Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Galland, where he was of counsel, and with his fellow attorneys, watched the twin towers fall.
That night, Barack Obama held his daughter Sasha, who had turned 3 months old the day before. He had night duty so his wife Michelle could get some sleep. As he stayed up late tending to Sasha’s needs, he wondered what kind of world she would be inheriting.
Sasha Obama is now 10, and in her short life her father has gone from obscurity to leader of the free world. On issues ranging from the War Powers Act to the indefinite detention of accused terrorists, the former constitutional law lecturer has certainly showed a certain willingness to get beyond the theoretical and make decisions his advisers call “practical.” In this, the responsibility of the presidency is what may have changed him, not 9/11.
The attacks, according to sources close to the president, hastened his political career, causing him to feel a stronger sense of urgency that he needed to emerge on the national stage. That’s because the issues brought to the forefront of the political debate -- the importance of national unity, the wisdom of going to war in Iraq, the balance between liberty and security -- are ones that the then-University of Chicago constitutional law lecturer found so compelling.
In short, 9/11 in many ways compelled Barack Obama to become a national leader.
Though his political career had suffered a humiliating setback the year before when incumbent Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., crushed him in the Democratic primary, Barack Obama within months of the terrorist attacks began sounding out themes for the post-9/11 world that ultimately led to him to become the 44th president of the United States.
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