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Context of '(1:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001: First Lady Told to Prepare to Leave Washington; Staffers Collect Her Clothes and Pets from the White House'

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Andi Ball.Andi Ball. [Source: White House]Laura Bush, the president’s wife, and her entourage are driven from Capitol Hill to the Secret Service headquarters in Washington, DC, for their own security, but their journey is slowed by the heavy traffic. [Woodward, 2002, pp. 17; National Journal, 8/31/2002; Kessler, 2006, pp. 136; Bush, 2010, pp. 200-201] Bush has been at the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, where she was originally scheduled to testify before a Senate committee. [CNN, 9/12/2001; Woodward, 2002, pp. 16-17] Her Secret Service agents have said they are going to take the first lady and her staff to a secure location. [Kessler, 2006, pp. 136] After the Secret Service emergency response team arrived for her, Bush was escorted out of the Russell Senate Office Building and to her limousine (see (Shortly After 10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Bush and those accompanying her leave Capitol Hill at 10:10 a.m., according to Noelia Rodriguez, the first lady’s press secretary.
Agents with Guns Drawn Protect Motorcade - Secret Service agents protect Bush’s motorcade with their guns as it heads to the secure location. Ashleigh Adams, the first lady’s deputy press secretary, will later recall, “It felt like we were in a war, because the Secret Service was driving next to the motorcade and they were hanging out of the windows with their machine guns out.” She will add that she has “been around the agents” before, but has “never seen them with their guns.”
Motorcade Delayed by Traffic - However, the motorcade is slowed by the heavy traffic. Bush will describe, “Outside our convoy windows, the city streets were clogged with people evacuating their workplaces and trying to reach their own homes.” Rodriguez will say, “In the car, we seemed to be going in slow motion.” [National Journal, 8/31/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 200] “The traffic was so bad that everything was stopped,” Andi Ball, Bush’s chief of staff, will recall. One of the Secret Service agents escorting Bush and her staff will later say a car sideswiped them during the journey.
Secure Location Is Secret Service Headquarters - The “secure location” that Bush and her staff are being taken to turns out to be the Secret Service headquarters. [Kessler, 2006, pp. 136] The Secret Service headquarters, according to journalist and author Ronald Kessler, is “an anonymous nine-story tan brick building on H Street at Ninth Street NW in Washington.” [Kessler, 2009, pp. 23] It is located a few blocks from the White House. After the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) it was reinforced to survive a large-scale blast. Bush and her entourage arrive there through an underground entrance. [Washington Post, 8/23/2009; Bush, 2010, pp. 200-201]
Journey Reportedly Takes 45 Minutes - The exact time they arrive at is unclear. According to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, “In the traffic jam from the Capitol, it took 45 minutes to get [Bush] to Secret Service headquarters.” This would mean the first lady arrives there at around 10:55 a.m. [Woodward, 2002, pp. 17] However, Bush will write that she watches the North Tower of the World Trade Center collapsing “live in front of my eyes,” on a screen at the headquarters. [Bush, 2010, pp. 201] If this is correct, she must arrive at the headquarters sometime before 10:28 a.m., when the North Tower comes down (see 10:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 311] White House spokespeople will refuse to disclose where the first lady has been taken to, only saying she is at a “secure location.” [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001; CNN, 9/11/2002]

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

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

President Bush and Laura Bush with their dogs, Barney and Spot.President Bush and Laura Bush with their dogs, Barney and Spot. [Source: White House]Laura Bush, the president’s wife, is told by her Secret Service agents to be prepared to leave Washington, DC, for several days, and members of her staff then go to the White House to fetch some of her belongings. [National Journal, 8/31/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 203] Bush is at the Secret Service headquarters in Washington, where she was brought for her own safety (see (10:10 a.m.-10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Kessler, 2006, pp. 136] At the headquarters, there is “a debate over what to do with [President Bush] and what to do with me,” the first lady will later recall. Her Secret Service agents tell her “to be prepared to leave Washington for several days at least.” To help her prepare, several members of her staff briefly return to the White House and collect some of her belongings. They are escorted there at about 1:30 p.m., according to Noelia Rodriguez, Bush’s press secretary. Sarah Moss, Bush’s assistant, collects some of the first lady’s clothes. John Meyers, Bush’s advance man, collects the Bush family dogs, Spot and Barney, and the family cat, India. While they are at the White House, the first lady’s staffers also collect their own purses and keys. The Secret Service agent with them instructs them: “Be fast. Run. Get your things.” The staffers then return to the Secret Service headquarters. However, Bush and those with her at the headquarters subsequently learn that the president will be returning to Washington today (see (4:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001 and (4:33 p.m.) September 11, 2001). It will therefore be decided that the first lady can stay in the capital. She will be taken to the White House at 6:30 p.m. (see 6:30 p.m. September 11, 2001). [National Journal, 8/31/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 203]

Entity Tags: Laura Bush, Noelia Rodriguez, John Meyers, Sarah Moss, US Secret Service

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Brian Stafford.Brian Stafford. [Source: Publicity photo]President Bush reportedly had begun his video conference call with the National Security Council (see (3:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001) by announcing, “I’m coming back to the White House as soon as the plane is fueled. No discussion.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 21] Toward the end of this meeting, around 4 p.m., Secret Service Director Brian Stafford tells Bush, “Our position is stay where you are. It’s not safe.” The Secret Service reportedly wants to keep the president where he is, at Offutt Air Force Base, overnight, and—according to some later accounts—indefinitely. To Stafford’s surprise, Bush ignores his advice and tells him, “I’m coming back.” Leaving the meeting, Bush tells his staff, “We’re going home.” [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 123; Woodward, 2002, pp. 28] Bush adviser Karl Rove later claims that, around this time, there are concerns that several planes still remain unaccounted for (see (4:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Brian L. Stafford, US Secret Service

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Members of Laura Bush’s staff who are with the first lady at the Secret Service headquarters in Washington, DC, go to the White House and then head home. [National Journal, 8/31/2002] Most of Bush’s staffers are with the first lady at the Secret Service headquarters, having been with Bush for her scheduled appearance on Capitol Hill this morning. (Bush’s other staffers stayed behind at the White House.) [ABC, 9/18/2001 pdf file] They were brought to the headquarters for their own safety (see (10:10 a.m.-10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Kessler, 2006, pp. 136] Some of them briefly returned to the White House earlier in the afternoon, to collect some of Bush’s belongings (see (1:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). Members of Bush’s staff now leave the Secret Service headquarters and go to the White House a final time. There, they have to show a Secret Service agent their IDs. “Then,” according to Noelia Rodriguez, the first lady’s press secretary, “it was time to go home.” The first lady will head back to the White House at 6:30 p.m. (see 6:30 p.m. September 11, 2001). [National Journal, 8/31/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 203]

Entity Tags: US Secret Service, Noelia Rodriguez

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

This photo of Bush speaking to Cheney shortly after leaving Offutt will later be used for Republican fundraising purposes.
This photo of Bush speaking to Cheney shortly after leaving Offutt will later be used for Republican fundraising purposes. [Source: White House]President Bush leaves Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska for Washington. [CNN, 9/12/2001; MSNBC, 9/22/2001; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Washington Times, 10/8/2002] He calls his wife Laura on the phone and tells her, “I’m coming home. See you at the White House. Love you, go on home.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 123; Woodward, 2002, pp. 28]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Laura Bush, the president’s wife, is driven, by members of the Secret Service, to the White House from the Secret Service headquarters in Washington, DC, and is then escorted down to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House. [Bush, 2010, pp. 203-204] Bush was brought to the Secret Service headquarters this morning for her own safety (see (10:10 a.m.-10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Woodward, 2002, pp. 17; Kessler, 2006, pp. 136]
First Lady Reassured that No More Attacks Will Occur - There, she spent much of the afternoon “like most other Americans, glued to the television,” according to Us Weekly magazine. Bush was, however, “perhaps more at ease than the average American because her [Secret Service] agents were receiving news before it was reported on television.” Bush will later recall: “[A]fter some time, we started hearing from our agents that most of the planes [in US airspace] had been accounted for, fairly early in the day, I think, before they really started announcing it on television. So at some point we started feeling reassured that [a terrorist attack] wasn’t going to happen again that day.” After Bush and those with her learned that the president would be returning to Washington today (see (4:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001 and (4:33 p.m.) September 11, 2001), Bush’s Secret Service agents decided that the first lady could go back to the White House.
First Lady Arrives at White House - At 6.30 p.m., she will recall, Bush gets into a Secret Service motorcade and is driven to the White House by Dave Saunders, one of her agents. [CNN, 9/11/2001; Us Weekly, 10/15/2001; Kessler, 2006, pp. 136; Bush, 2010, pp. 203] It is a short journey, as the Secret Service headquarters is just a few blocks from the White House. [Washington Post, 8/23/2009] Bush is driven along the deserted streets and then her vehicle goes at full throttle through the gate of the White House. She notices “[h]eavily armed men in black” swarming over the White House grounds. She then gets out of the vehicle, preceded by her Secret Service agents.
First Lady Taken to Underground Conference Room - Bush is “hustled inside” the White House, she will recall, and taken “downstairs through a pair of big steel doors that closed behind me with a loud hiss, forming an airtight seal.” She then walks along the hallway below the White House to the PEOC, and is taken into the conference room adjacent to the PEOC’s “nerve center.” Those already in the room include National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, White House counselor Karen Hughes, and deputy White House chief of staff Josh Bolten. Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne Cheney, are also there. Lynne Cheney comes over and hugs the first lady. She then whispers into the first lady’s ear, “The plane that hit the Pentagon circled the White House first” (see 9:34 a.m.- 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). This information, Bush will comment, causes a “shiver” to “vibrate down [her] spine.” [Bush, 2010, pp. 203-204] President Bush will join the first lady in the PEOC at 7:10 p.m., after he arrives at the White House (see 7:10 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Bush, 2010, pp. 137-138; Bush, 2010, pp. 204-205] Staffers who were with the first lady at the Secret Service headquarters went to the White House and then headed home at around 4:30 p.m. (see (4:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [National Journal, 8/31/2002]

Entity Tags: Joshua Bolten, Dave Saunders, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, US Secret Service, Condoleezza Rice, Laura Bush, Karen Hughes, Lynne Cheney

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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