!! History Commons Alert, Exciting News

Context of '(Shortly Before 11:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001: President Bush Finally Talks to First Lady on the Phone'

This is a scalable context timeline. It contains events related to the event (Shortly Before 11:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001: President Bush Finally Talks to First Lady on the Phone. You can narrow or broaden the context of this timeline by adjusting the zoom level. The lower the scale, the more relevant the items on average will be, while the higher the scale, the less relevant the items, on average, will be.

President Bush on the phone during the flight from Sarasota to Barksdale Air Force Base.President Bush on the phone during the flight from Sarasota to Barksdale Air Force Base. [Source: White House]President Bush and his staff have difficulty communicating with colleagues in Washington, DC, while they are traveling on Air Force One, after the plane takes off from Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Northwest Indiana Times, 9/22/2002; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] Bush had problems calling his colleagues at the White House while he was being driven to the airport, after leaving the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, at around 9:35 a.m. (see (9:34 a.m.-9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006]
Air Force One Should Have 'Outstanding Communications' - He ought to have more success after he boards Air Force One, at around 9:45 a.m. (see (9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001), since the plane has state-of-the-art communications systems. [Inside the White House, 9/1998; Hardesty, 2003, pp. 167] Its capabilities are “just as good as the communications from the Oval Office in terms of [the president] being able to call, in a secure way, the secretary of defense, the secretary of state, the generals that might have to fight a war, or the vice president or… the national security adviser,” White House chief of staff Andrew Card will later comment. The plane has the “capacity to have… outstanding communications,” he will say. [White House, 8/12/2002]
Communications Systems Are 'All Jammed' - However, Bush and his staff have great difficulty sending and receiving information about the day’s events while they are on Air Force One. [Northwest Indiana Times, 9/22/2002] The “multiple [communications] systems—commercial and terrestrial systems” on the plane are “all jammed,” according to Master Sergeant Dana Lark, superintendent of communications. Lark actually wonders, “Did someone sabotage our comms?” [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016]
Bush Has Problems Communicating with Vice President Cheney - Bush finds that his calls are successful only intermittently. [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006] Attempts are made to establish an open line with Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who are at the White House, but the line keeps dropping. [Bush, 2010, pp. 131] “It was absolutely stunning, standing next to the president as he was talking to the vice president, then holding the phone off his ear because it cut off,” White House press secretary Ari Fleischer will comment. [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] At one point, Bush pounds his desk in frustration and shouts: “This is inexcusable. Get me the vice president.” [CBS News, 9/11/2002] He also has difficulty reaching his wife, Laura, since the line keeps dropping when he tries to call her. He eventually talks to her shortly before 11:45 a.m., when Air Force One is approaching Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana (see (Shortly Before 11:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Bush, 2010, pp. 132]
Officials in Washington Are Unable to Call the Plane - Some key individuals in Washington are unsuccessful when they try calling Air Force One. Scott Heyer, a communications officer in the White House Situation Room, is unable to contact the plane while it is flying from Sarasota to Barksdale Air Force Base, even when he tries calling its satellite phone (see 9:54 a.m.-11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 3/16/2004] And White House counselor Karen Hughes is unable to reach the president when she tries calling him while he is airborne (see (Between 10:31 a.m. and 11:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 1/27/2002; NBC, 4/4/2004]
Bush Has His First Teleconference Hours after Leaving Sarasota - As a result of his problems communicating from the plane, Bush will hold his first teleconference with his principal advisers at around 3:15 p.m. (see (3:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001)—more than five hours after he takes off from Sarasota—after he arrives at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, where there is sophisticated communications equipment (see 2:50 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Northwest Indiana Times, 9/22/2002; Business Week, 11/4/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 326] By that time, the communication problems will apparently have started to ease. Lark will recall that as Air Force One is flying to Offutt, “some of the commercial systems finally began to become available” and she actually receives a call from her chief. [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016]
Good Communications Are 'Critical' for the President - Bush’s communication problems may have a significant impact on the government’s ability to respond to the terrorist attacks. Thomas Kean, the chairman of the 9/11 Commission, will explain why the president’s ability to communicate during a crisis is so important, saying, “In the case of any kind of attack in the United States, what you’re supposed to do is get the president off the ground and Air Force One then becomes the command center.” Once he is airborne, the president is “commanding the forces of the United States from the air,” Kean will say. [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006] “The president literally can’t function in his constitutional role unless he can communicate, so [good communications are] absolutely critical,” Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Herman, a senior presidential communications officer, will similarly comment. [Marist Magazine, 10/2002] The president “is the only one who can give certain orders that need to be given,” Kean will note. [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006] However, Mark Rosenker, director of the White House Military Office, will claim that the communication problems have only a limited impact. “[F]or the most part I believe the president had the ability to do what was necessary to be in control and have command of his forces, and talk with his national security structure,” he will say. [White House, 8/29/2002]
Communications Systems Are Supposedly 'Saturated' - Lark will learn at a later date that the communication problems occur because, she will say, “the commercial systems were all just saturated.” [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] Rosenker will similarly suggest that the problems may be partly due to the fact that communications from Air Force One “have to get through a regular telephone network,” and when there is a crisis, the increased volume of communications “jam and overuse the structure.” [White House, 8/29/2002] On top of their problems making and receiving calls, Bush and his staffers have difficulty monitoring the television coverage of the attacks while they are airborne, because the reception on the plane is poor and intermittent (see (9:54 a.m.-6:54 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [CBS News, 9/11/2002; Northwest Indiana Times, 9/22/2002; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016]

Entity Tags: Thomas Kean, Condoleezza Rice, Ari Fleischer, Thomas Herman, Scott Heyer, Andrew Card, Mark Rosenker, Dana Lark, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, George W. Bush, Laura Bush, Karen Hughes

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

President Bush, who is on Air Force One, is informed that his wife, Laura Bush, and his daughters, Jenna and Barbara, have been moved to safe locations. When he got on Air Force One in Sarasota, Florida, Bush was concerned about the safety of his wife and daughters, and requested additional protection for them (see (9:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001). At that time, the first lady was on Capitol Hill, in Washington, DC (see 9:16 a.m.-9:40 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 9:41 a.m. September 11, 2001). Barbara and Jenna Bush are students at Yale and the University of Texas, respectively. [New Yorker, 9/25/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 100, 108]
President Told Wife and Daughters Are Safe - Edward Marinzel, the head of Bush’s Secret Service detail, who is with the president on Air Force One, has been contacted by Secret Service Director Brian Stafford, and told that the first lady and the president’s daughters have all been safely relocated. [United States Secret Service, 2001] This news is now passed on to the president by Andrew Card, Bush’s chief of staff. Card tells Bush that the first lady is “in a secure location with the Secret Service and that his daughters had been removed to safer locations,” Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward will later write. [Woodward, 2002, pp. 18] The first lady is taken to the Secret Service headquarters, in Washington (see (10:10 a.m.-10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Bush, 2010, pp. 200-201] Barbara and Jenna Bush are taken to the Secret Service office in New Haven, Connecticut, and the Driskill Hotel in Austin, Texas, respectively (see 10:51 a.m.-10:57 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Woodward, 2002, pp. 17]
President Given Phone Number for First Lady - Bush then asks Card, jokingly, about Barney, his Scottish terrier. Card replies, “He’s nipping at the heels of Osama bin Laden now.” [New Yorker, 9/25/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 108] Bush also requests, and is provided with, a direct contact telephone number for the first lady. [United States Secret Service, 2001] But according to the president’s senior adviser, Karl Rove, who is on Air Force One at this time, the news that his wife and daughters have been secured “reassured the president and allowed him to put off calling Laura until later in the morning, when events provided a brief window to do so.” [Rove, 2010, pp. 258] It will be nearly 11:45 a.m. before Bush is able to talk to the first lady (see (Shortly Before 11:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Bush, 2010, pp. 132]

Entity Tags: Edward Marinzel, Laura Bush, Brian L. Stafford, Barbara Pierce Bush, George W. Bush, Jenna Bush, Andrew Card, Karl C. Rove

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Laura Bush, the president’s wife, and her entourage arrive at the Secret Service headquarters in Washington, DC, where they will remain for much of the rest of the day, and where they make phone calls to their relatives and watch television coverage of the terrorist attacks. [Woodward, 2002, pp. 17; National Journal, 8/31/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 201-203] Bush and her staff have been brought to the headquarters for their own security by members of the Secret Service. The building, located a few blocks from the White House, is strengthened to survive a large-scale blast. Bush and those accompanying her were driven there from the Russell Senate Office Building, on Capitol Hill (see (10:10 a.m.-10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Kessler, 2006, pp. 136; Bush, 2010, pp. 200-201] They are initially taken to the office of Brian Stafford, the Secret Service director, which is on an upper floor of the building. [Draper, 2007, pp. 143; Bush, 2010, pp. 201]
First Lady and Staff Call Their Families - Bush tells her staffers to call their families. Noelia Rodriguez, the first lady’s press secretary, will later recall, “Mrs. Bush told us, ‘Find phones, get hold of your families, and let them know you are okay.’” Bush calls her daughters, Jenna and Barbara, and her mother (see (Between 11:00 a.m. and 11:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [National Journal, 8/31/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 202] She will also talk with President Bush while at the headquarters (see (Shortly Before 11:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Bush, 2010, pp. 132; Bush, 2010, pp. 202-203]
First Lady Moved to Basement - After a time, the first lady and her staff are moved from the director’s office to the basement of the headquarters, apparently after they have made their phone calls. Ashleigh Adams, the first lady’s deputy press secretary, will recall, “[W]e took turns using the telephone and then we went to another floor where there was a large-screen TV.” Journalist and author Robert Draper will note that Bush’s Secret Service agents move the first lady after realizing that, in light of the day’s attacks, having her on an upper floor is “perhaps not such a hot idea.” [National Journal, 8/31/2002; Draper, 2007, pp. 143; Bush, 2010, pp. 201] In the basement, Bush and her staff go to the William Wood Conference Room. [Woodward, 2002, pp. 17] The windowless room has a large display screen across one wall, showing a constant TV feed. “For a while,” she will recall, Bush sits “in a small area off the conference room, silently watching the images on television.” According to Adams, “Mrs. Bush didn’t want the volume up, so we just sat there watching the TV like a silent movie.”
First Lady and Staff Lack a 'True Sense' of What Is Happening - Bush will describe the “chaos” regarding the attacks that she and those with her experience, writing: “It got so that we were living in five-minute increments, wondering if a new plane would emerge from the sky and hit a target. All of us in that basement conference room and many more in the Secret Service building were relying on rumors and on whatever news came from the announcers on television. When there were reports of more errant planes or other targets, it was almost impossible not to believe them.” According to Adams, “Because the TV was on, but we didn’t have volume, it was hard to have a true sense of what was going on.” Bush and her staff will remain in the conference room for several hours. [National Journal, 8/31/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 201-203]

Entity Tags: Noelia Rodriguez, US Secret Service, Ashleigh Adams, Laura Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Laura Bush with her mother, Jenna Welch.Laura Bush with her mother, Jenna Welch. [Source: Tara Engberg / White House]Laura Bush, the president’s wife, talks over the phone to her daughters, Jenna and Barbara, and then to her mother, after arriving at the Secret Service headquarters in Washington, DC. [ABC, 9/18/2001 pdf file; Bush, 2010, pp. 202] Bush and her entourage were brought to the Secret Service headquarters for their own security (see (10:10 a.m.-10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Upon arriving, they were taken to the director’s office (see (10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Kessler, 2006, pp. 136; Bush, 2010, pp. 200-201] There, Bush told her staffers to call their families and let them know they were alright. [National Journal, 8/31/2002]
First Lady Calls Daughters at 'Secure Locations' - Bush now makes her own calls. First, she calls her twin daughters, Barbara and Jenna, who are both at university. [Us Weekly, 10/15/2001; Bush, 2010, pp. 202] She tried to call them earlier this morning, but was told they had been taken to “secure locations” (see (9:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Newsweek, 12/3/2001; Andersen, 2002, pp. 6] Barbara and Jenna Bush have now reached these “secure locations” (see 10:51 a.m.-10:57 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 108; Woodward, 2002, pp. 17] The first lady will later recall that she calls her daughters now “to make sure they were fine and to tell them I was fine.” [Us Weekly, 10/15/2001] She tells them they are “going to be safe and that… I loved them and… that things were going to be alright,” she will say. [ABC, 9/18/2001 pdf file]
First Lady Calls Mother for Reassurance - Bush then calls her mother, Jenna Welch, at her home in Midland, Texas. [Andersen, 2002, pp. 7; Bush, 2010, pp. 202] Bush will describe: “I called my mother to tell her I was fine. But the fact is I was calling her to hear her voice, to be reassured myself.” [Us Weekly, 10/15/2001] However, when she tries phoning President Bush at this time, her calls cannot get through. She will eventually talk to him at around 11:45 a.m. (see (Shortly Before 11:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Bush, 2010, pp. 132; Bush, 2010, pp. 202-203]

Entity Tags: Barbara Pierce Bush, Jenna Welch, Jenna Bush, Laura Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

President Bush and his wife, Laura Bush, finally talk over the phone after their previous attempts at calling each other this morning have been unsuccessful. Bush is on Air Force One, which is descending toward Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, while the first lady is at the Secret Service headquarters in Washington, DC, where she has been taken for her own safety. [Kessler, 2006, pp. 136; Bush, 2010, pp. 132; Bush, 2010, pp. 202-203]
First Lady Reassures President, Says Daughters Are Fine - Bush and the first lady talk over a secure phone line. [CNN, 9/12/2001] After she hears her husband’s voice, the first lady says to the president, referring to the day’s catastrophic events: “How horrible. How terrible.” She then reassures him that she is okay. [Us Weekly, 10/15/2001; Andersen, 2002, pp. 6] She says she has been taken by the Secret Service to a safe location. Bush is “very relieved,” he will later recall, when the first lady then tells him she has spoken to their daughters, Barbara and Jenna, and says both of them are fine (see (Between 11:00 a.m. and 11:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The first lady asks the president when he is coming back to Washington. He tells her “that everyone was urging me not to return, but that I would be there soon,” he will recall. “I had no idea whether that was true, but I sure hoped so,” he will comment. [Bush, 2010, pp. 132] (Bush will in fact arrive back at the White House many hours later, at 6:54 p.m. (see (6:54 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/12/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 128] ) Later reflecting on this call, the president will say his wife “couldn’t have been more calm, resolved, almost placid” during it, which, he will say, “was a very reassuring thing.” [Newsweek, 12/3/2001] The first lady will describe the call, saying, “From the way [Bush] spoke, I could hear how starkly his presidency had been transformed.”
Previous Call Attempts Have Been Unsuccessful - Bush and the first lady have been trying to call each other throughout the morning, but until now have been unsuccessful in their attempts. [Bush, 2010, pp. 202-203] Bush was provided with a direct contact phone number for the first lady earlier in the morning (see (10:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [United States Secret Service, 2001] But before they made contact, he had “placed several calls,” he will recall, but “the line kept dropping.” Bush will comment, “I couldn’t believe that the president of the United States couldn’t reach his wife.” [Bush, 2010, pp. 132] The first lady had similarly been trying to call the president, but also without success. After she arrived at the Secret Service headquarters (see (10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001), she “tried to reach [the president], but my calls could not get through,” she will write. John Meyers, her advance man, promised he would keep trying to contact the president for her. The first lady will comment, “It is stunning now to think that our ‘state-of-the-art’ communications would not allow him to complete a phone call to Secret Service headquarters, or me to reach him on Air Force One.” [Bush, 2010, pp. 202-203]

Entity Tags: Laura Bush, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

President Bush arrives at the White House, after exiting Air Force One at 6:42 p.m. and flying across Washington in a helicopter. [Salon, 9/12/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Associated Press, 8/21/2002; ABC News, 9/11/2002; Washington Times, 10/8/2002]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Ordering 

Time period


Email Updates

Receive weekly email updates summarizing what contributors have added to the History Commons database

 
Donate

Developing and maintaining this site is very labor intensive. If you find it useful, please give us a hand and donate what you can.
Donate Now

Volunteer

If you would like to help us with this effort, please contact us. We need help with programming (Java, JDO, mysql, and xml), design, networking, and publicity. If you want to contribute information to this site, click the register link at the top of the page, and start contributing.
Contact Us

Creative Commons License Except where otherwise noted, the textual content of each timeline is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike