WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — The terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, led to a call to action for now-Sen. Joni Ernst.

“Twenty years later and I’m still very emotional,” Ernst, R-Iowa, said, “when I think about the innocent lives that were lost.”

The day the Twin Towers fell, she recalled, she was at home with her daughter getting ready to plan a birthday party.

“My neighbor Wanda had called and said, ‘You need to turn the TV on,” Ernst said.

Moments later, Ernst got a call from the Iowa National Guard, of which she was a member.

“It was very scary the uncertainty of that day,” Ernst said. “I knew there was no way we would not respond.”

In 2003, she deployed to Iraq and Kuwait as a company commander.

“My experience in the Iowa National Guard most definitely influenced how I lead in the United States Senate and the things that are very important to me: a sense of patriotism and protecting my country,” she said.

She said she will commemorate the 20th anniversary of Sept. 11 with her daughter, now a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

“We’ll take time to remember those that were lost on 9/11,” she said.

They will also honor those killed in the recent suicide bombings outside the Kabul airport in Afghanistan. She said watching the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan has been especially difficult for veterans.

“Many of them are wondering, ‘Was my service worth it?’ Many of the gold star families are wondering, ‘Was the loss of my loved one worth it?’ And what I want them to know is yes,” Ernst said, choking up. “We have been safe in the United States for the last 20 years because these men and women put their lives on the line.”