Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Recalling George W. Bush’s first reaction to the 9/11 terror attack


Recalling George W. Bush’s first reaction to the 9/11 terror attack

WEST PALM BEACH — In a two-hour speech and Q&A session at Palm Beach Atlantic University, former White House Senior Adviser and Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove highlighted his life before and during his years in the capital, spending 30 uninterrupted minutes of that time discussing Sept. 11, 2001, to a hushed crowd of nearly 400.
Rove was with President George W. Bush at Emma T. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota that morning and was the first to tell the president about a jet plowing into the World Trade Center — before anyone realized what was really going on.
Some highlights of the discussion:
  • After the first plane hit the tower, Rove said he scrambled through the school looking for a TV, finally finding one. After some reception problems, they managed to get the TV on just in time to hear the confusion about a second jet hitting the other tower.
  • Chief of Staff Andrew Card went to tell the president about the second plane, Rove said, but paused at the door 5-10 seconds in order to phrase his comment to Bush so the president wouldn’t have to ask any questions. Basically, the comment was: “A second plane has hit the World Trade Center. America is being attacked.”
  • So as not to alarm anyone, Bush decided to continue reading to the kids in the classroom, thinking it would be over in about 2 minutes. Instead, it went 4-5 minutes longer.
  • During an 80-mph+ ride through Sarasota back to Air Force One, Rove said he found out about the third plane hitting the Pentagon in Washington when the president asked someone on the phone: “Is (Defense Secretary Donald) Rumsfeld still alive?”
  • Aboard Air Force One, Bush wanted to go back to Washington, despite everyone saying it wasn’t safe. The president insisted that he had to speak to the nation from the White House, not some safe bunker in another part of the country.
  • Not long before the president’s plane was to land in the D.C. area, Bush said he needed a “15-minute power nap,” Rove said. So Rove then went to sit next to another staffer on the right side of the plane. They soon noticed a fighter jet about 20 feet from the right wing tip, so Rove went to the left side of the plane to get his camera. That’s when he noticed another fighter jet off the left-side wing tip. Not the usual escort — he realized later — these jets were there to get between Air Force One and anything that might be fired at them.
  • After landing outside D.C., Rove described a 165-mph helicopter ride back to the White House, sometimes at heights of only 20 feet off the ground, dodging trees in neighborhoods along the way. At one point, he said, he thought they were going to go under a highway overpass, but instead flew over it at the last minute.
  • Bush’s speech to the nation had been worked on during the Air Force One flight, but the one fact missing was how many had been killed in the attacks. Although estimates had been at 10,000 or more earlier in the day, Rove said he finally reached government officials in New York who put the estimate at 3,300. They were saddened, but relieved, that the number was lower than they had heard earlier. The number was inserted into the speech on the teleprompter just before the president went on the air.

No comments:

Post a Comment