Gov. McCallum reflects on state’s response to 9/11 and his hope for the future of America

Published: Sep. 10, 2021 at 9:00 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 10, 2021 at 9:53 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - “That morning I was in the car. Security had picked me up at the residence. We were driving in,” recalls then Governor Scott McCallum, “It was Larry Ambrose, who is Capitol Police security that morning, said Governor we could be at war by this afternoon. I came in. There was a TV in the governor’s office. I turned it on right away to see the second tower getting hit, and it became extremely busy for me that day.”

Former Governor Scott McCallum reflects on the state's response to 9/11 and his hope for the...
Former Governor Scott McCallum reflects on the state's response to 9/11 and his hope for the future of America.(Leigh Mills)

Like most of us, Governor McCallum remembers exactly where he was and what he went through the morning of September 11, 2001.

“Well, there’s just a lot of things occurring. I mean, I was dealing almost immediately with the National Guard, with the state security, making decisions. And then as well I’ve got a lot of state employees. What do you do? What’s happening to our country?”

Questions that at the time, no one knew the answer to. McCallum remembers the unknown was one of his biggest concerns.

“I do recall then we had to have the blinds down in the office. They didn’t want to have people being able to look in from the outside and seeing where I was. Those types of things occurring, not knowing, and the public was going through the same thing.”

“That day, it was pretty much you make a decisions on the fly, and it’s almost a surreal moment. Here you are, and you’ve got the head of the military, the head of the state patrol, all looking to you for guidance. It’s.. it’s.. it’s a real moment of okay, better start making the decisions here.”

What sticks out of the most to McCallum is how people stepped up to help.

“I think now with the political arena and the dissension that occurs, how people really pulled together and just really pulled together for America. That was, that was a true blessing that came out of what occurred. And I recall attending and saying a few words at the first Packer game afterwards and having the big American flag unfurled. Just the emotion with people. And actually doing a number of events afterwards. The Pledge of Allegiance met so much more. The National Anthem meant a lot to people.”

“You know there were some real heroes in those, 20 years ago. The immediate reaction, you know the largest, the largest evacuation by sea that has ever occurred in the history of this planet wasn’t Dunkirk. It was exceeded in New York. And again, back to people who stepped up. Turns out the Coast Guard, the person in charge of the area was out that day. It was the second in charge, and people that just had boats showed up and helped steer things. That’s, that’s what a democracy is made of.. of people willing to step up, take leadership roles and sometimes not even leadership roles, but volunteering to help others. You can see the goodness in people in stressful situations, and that’s my hope. It still exists. It’s still there.”

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