Sister of pilot killed on 9/11 slams comparison between Capitol riot and 2001 terrorist attacks

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The sister of a pilot slain on Sept. 11, 2001, slammed comparisons between the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the Jan. 6 Capitol riot in a Wall Street Journal column published Thursday.

Debra Burlingame, sister of American Airlines Flight 77 pilot Charles Burlingame, excoriated Democratic lawmakers for pushing to establish a “9/11-style commission,” and calling efforts to “reconfigure” the narrative around Jan. 6 to fit 9/11 as “profoundly disheartening.”

“These two events are fundamentally different in nature, scope and consequences,” Burlingame wrote. “Mentioning them in the same breath not only diminishes the horror of what happened on 9/11; it tells a false story to the generation of Americans who are too young to remember that day nearly 20 years ago.”

Burlingame recounted how her brother was murdered in the cockpit after a lengthy struggle for control of the plane, which jihadists ultimately flew into the Pentagon, killing 189 people.

“Members of Congress might have had a frightening day on Jan. 6, but on 9/11 some 200 people in the World Trade Center towers chose to jump from 80 to 100 floors above the ground rather than be consumed by fire,” she continued. “More than 3,000 children lost parents. Eight young children were killed on the planes. Recovery personnel found 19,000 human remains scattered all over lower Manhattan from river to river, including on rooftops and window ledges.”

The attacks shut down the nation’s aviation system and the New York Stock Exchange for days, and destroyed acres of Lower Manhattan and a section of the Pentagon. She noted that rebuilding at Ground Zero is still incomplete and U.S. troops are still in Afghanistan nearly 20 years later.

“On Jan. 6, Congress resumed its session that evening,” she wrote, pointing out the drastic difference in long-term effects between the two days.

“It is deeply offensive and sad that the brutal and harrowing memories of the worst terrorist attack in American history are being deployed by political partisans,” Burlingame wrote. “They are using 9/11 not as an example of what the American people endured and overcame together, but explicitly to divide, to stoke hatred and to further a political agenda aimed at stigmatizing the other party and marginalizing ordinary Americans from participating in the political process. That is the real threat to democracy.”

Efforts to create a special commission on the Capitol riot would be destructive theater, she argued.

The vote to establish a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol riot passed the House on May 19 with 35 Republican members joining nearly every Democrat in support. The bill, however, failed Friday in the Senate in a 54-35 vote, with all present Democrats and only six Republicans voting in favor.

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