Lawmakers gathered in prayer Tuesday to commemorate the September 11 terrorist attacks and to sing "God Bless America" on the same Capitol steps they evacuated onto 11 years ago.
"I can still remember the shock when I saw the second plane flying into the second World Trade Center as it happened," says Maryland Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings. "I cannot get that picture out of my mind. It will be a day of prayer for me."
Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland says the details of Sept. 11, 2001, are never far from his mind.
"We came outside, and it was unbelievable. You could see the smoke coming out of the Pentagon," Hoyer remembers.
But as some in Congress take Tuesday's anniversary to reflect, others say they cannot ignore the looming threats to the country's defense budget posed by political infighting.
Florida Republican Rep. Allen West, who was stationed in North Carolina as an Army exchange officer at Camp Lejeune during the attacks, says today is also about moving forward.
"When it happened, I knew then just the same as my dad knew back when Pearl Harbor was attacked that he was going to be called to duty, called to service. Same with me."
He says the anniversary should serve as a reminder of the struggles left ahead.
"As we continue on, 11 years later, we are still fighting a vicious and determined enemy," West says. "When [Obama] talks about us having the strongest and the greatest military force, he ought to do something about this sequestration thing because that is going to take us in the wrong direction."
As part of the sequestration process, part of a debt-ceiling agreement reached in 2011, automatic budget cuts are slated to take effect in January if Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate cannot come to an agreement on how to otherwise address the country's growing deficit.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor also took advantage of the anniversary to call on his Democratic counterparts in the Senate to take action on the sequester, calling it "a big deal" and a threat to security Tuesday during a meeting with reporters.
"The best thing we can do as a people to honor those individuals is to make sure that it never happens again. And we have looming, massive defense cuts," Cantor says. "There is a lack of leadership in this administration. We have a desperate need to make sure that our men and women in uniform have what they need."
But Democrats in Congress say Republicans have been unwilling to negotiate on the sequester and say the administration has shown a depth of leadership when it comes to handling the country's security.
"I think the president has done an outstanding job. He made a commitment that if he found bin Laden, he would take him out, and he did," Cummings says. "I think he has struck a very crippling blow to the al Qaeda movement, so I think he has done an outstanding job."