CHICAGO — A published report questions the accounts Illinois’ top candidates for U.S. Senate have given regarding their whereabouts during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk has said repeatedly that he was in a meeting with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon when Rumsfeld learned a second plane had hit the World Trade Center, leading those in the meeting to the realization that the U.S. was under attack, the Chicago Tribune reported (http://trib.in/2ctdR0W ). But Rumsfeld was in a different meeting when he heard about the second plane, according to the 2004 report by the 9/11 Commission.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth has said she was “in command of the Blackhawk unit at Midway (Airport) on 9/11,” adding during an event Monday that “we were the only military aviation here (in Chicago).” She doesn’t always mention she was in Scotland with her husband that day.

Duckworth and Kirk’s race could help determine whether Democrats retake control of the Senate. Both candidates are veterans, and their military records and ability to fight terrorism have been major campaign issues.

Duckworth told the Tribune she was using “Army lingo,” because her unit was based in Chicago. Her campaign noted other instances in which she did discuss being in Scotland.

Duckworth was assigned as a commander of the 106th Aviation Regiment at Midway airport at the time, according to military records.

“I was on the phone trying to desperately get back on 9/11 itself when it happened. I was in command. I got the notice called in and immediately sat down and started alerting my unit. So I was desperately trying to get back to Illinois,” said Duckworth, who lost her legs three years later when the helicopter she was piloting was shot down in Iraq.

Kirk’s campaign says it’s “his recollection” that he was with Rumsfeld, but that things happened quickly and the morning was chaotic.

His campaign notes Kirk was in the meeting with Rumsfeld when the defense secretary was alerted that the first plane hit — the people in the meeting believed it was a civil air disaster, Kirk has said — and that the second plane flew into the second tower 17 minutes later.

Kirk, a former Navy Reserve intelligence officer, has apologized in the past for overstating his military career, misstatements Duckworth has used against him in the campaign. Among them was a false claim that he served in the Gulf War and that he came under fire while flying over Iraq.

Two other candidates are vying for the Senate seat, Libertarian candidate Kenton McMillen and Green Party candidate Scott Summers.


Information from: Chicago Tribune, http://www.chicagotribune.com