CARY, N.C. – Like so many office workers, Tom Murry's Tuesday was off to a normal start.


What You Need To Know

Future state Rep. Tom Murry was working near the Pentagon when the Sept. 11 attacks happened

Murry and his coworkers spent hours in a conference room before they were able to go home

The attacks led him to join the National Guard years later


It was Sept. 11, 2001, and Murry had recently moved from Arkansas to northern Virginia to work for the National Community Pharmacists Association. His office was barely five miles from the Pentagon. As he settled in for the day, a co-worker from New York came in.

“She's like, 'New York City is under attack!'” he said. “And it almost didn't register. I didn't quite understand, was it a fighter jet? Somebody's missile? Did somebody violate the airspace?”

The next few minutes flew by in a blur. The North Tower of the World Trade Center was hit at 8:46 a.m.. The South Tower followed at 9:03. Then, at 9:37, American Airlines Flight 77 plowed into the Pentagon.

“Our network just instantly went down. No phone lines, internet went down at the office,” he said. “My wife was trying to get a hold of me, we were dating at the time, and we couldn't get in touch with each other.”

Murry and his co-workers crowded into a conference room and turned on the news. 

“A lot of us were thinking, what is America's response going to be?” he said. “And why, why did this happen, and how were we going to recover?”

Murry said the DC Metro reopened that evening, so he was able to get home that night. He said he can still remember fighter jets circling overhead and armed guards all over the Georgetown neighborhood.

Murry eventually moved to North Carolina, where he served two terms in the N.C. House of Representatives. Then, in 2014, he and a friend decided it was long past time for them to join the National Guard. Murry joined the N.C. National Guard's judge advocate general corps. On Independence Day 2018, he was in Kabul. Having once worked within sight of one of the targets of the 9/11 attacks, Murry found himself within sight of the ancient fortress where Osama bin Laden and his followers had planned them.

“That is a full-circle experience,” he said. “I feel kind of blessed to have those experiences form my perspective on this country.”

Looking back on the attacks today, Murry said what is especially striking is the way the country came together in the days that followed. He said he particularly remembers the proliferation of American flags on cars. Murry decided to bring that piece of history back for the anniversary by putting American flag stickers on both of his family's cars.

Murry now has three children, born after the attacks. As they grow older, he said he teaches them a little more about the attacks and his experience living through them.

“I think they need to understand that there's evil in the world, but there's also a corresponding responsibility to overcome that evil with how he lives his life,” he said.