Oprah: Were you in Washington, D.C., the morning the Pentagon was hit?
Madeleine: Yes. When I got a call at home, I turned on the TV to see the second plane hit [the World Trade Center]. Later I got in my car and heard on the radio that smoke was coming out of the Pentagon. I couldn't believe it! Washington suddenly became a small town. I've lived in D.C. for 30 years, and I used to walk the streets without anybody recognizing me. But as I was driving downtown, people rolled down their windows and said, "Have you heard what's happening?" I'd say, "I'm listening to this the same way you are." Then I heard that there was a hijacked plane heading toward Washington, so I had to deal with being in the heart of that. I was also checking on my son-in-law in New York. Both he and my daughter turned out to be fine. Like everyone, I was looking for my family.
Oprah: Has this horrendous act caused us to pause and think about what really matters?
Madeleine: Yes. It makes us all realize that what we care most about is family. After such a crisis you want to just touch them—and if you can't physically touch them, you want to at least make sure they're all right. That gives you a sense of security. And then you think about your country: "Why did this happen here?" The horror of this was so unimaginable, you almost had to ask other people, "Did this really happen?" It was like waking up from a nightmare.
Oprah: After such a crisis, do you think it's possible for us to be better people?
Madeleine: I hope so. I don't want to sound Pollyannaish, but I hope that out of a tragedy like this, something good will come. I hope we understand we're one family. In the past, New York has been seen as a place where people are cold-blooded, yet New Yorkers are behaving wonderfully toward one another and they are helping one another. There's this whole sense of caring for each other. And I think that is excellent. I am also moved by the unbelievable bravery of the firefighters, the police officers, and the rescue workers. Sometimes the worst can bring out the best in us.
I can only hope that as a country we won't start disliking Arab-Americans. We have to be careful not to be prejudiced against a whole group that had nothing to do with this. The magic of America is that we're a free and open society with a mixed population. Part of our security is our freedom.
Oprah: Turning against the Arab community is ridiculous. If the terrorists had been white, would we suddenly be prejudiced against whites? No.
Madeleine: That's right.