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Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001: President’s Military Aides Learn of Plane Hitting the WTC

Paul Montanus.Paul Montanus. [Source: United States Naval Academy]Major Paul Montanus and Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gould, two military aides who are accompanying President Bush on his visit to Florida, are notified that a plane has hit the World Trade Center, but they do not yet realize the crash was deliberate, as part of a terrorist attack. [Marist Magazine, 10/2002; Lompoc Record, 9/11/2011; CBS Sports, 8/31/2012] The president has five military aides, who are representatives of the Air Force, the Army, the Navy, the Marines, and the Coast Guard. A military aide will accompany the president wherever he goes. [Lompoc Record, 9/11/2011; Santa Barbara News-Press, 9/11/2011] Montanus, a Marine Corps officer, is currently the president’s “advance aide.” He inspected the locations for the president’s Florida visit beforehand and is accompanying Bush on his trip to the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota. [Marist Magazine, 10/2002; Lompoc Record, 9/11/2011] Gould, an Air Force officer, is the “courier military aide,” who is responsible for handling military emergency operations. He is currently off duty for a few hours, and is working out in the gym at the resort on Longboat Key where Bush spent the previous night (see September 10, 2001). [Lompoc Record, 9/11/2011; Santa Barbara News-Press, 9/11/2011]
Military Aides Alerted to Crash at WTC - Montanus is notified of the crash at the WTC while traveling to the Booker Elementary School in the president’s motorcade. He apparently does not realize it was part of a terrorist attack. [Marist Magazine, 10/2002] “We had heard that a plane had hit the building, but not much more,” he will later recall. [CBS Sports, 8/31/2012] Gould learns what happened in New York when his pager goes off, with a message from the Presidential Emergency Operations Center below the White House that informs him, “A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center.” Gould then sees the coverage of the crash on the television in the gym. He finishes his workout and then calls his wife, to discuss the incident with her. As a trained pilot, Gould wonders how such a crash could have occurred. Like Montanus, he thinks it was an accident. “Part of me doesn’t want to believe it’s anything else,” he will recall. Gould will still be on the phone with his wife when the second plane hits the WTC, and then realize that some kind of attack is taking place (see (9:04 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Military Aide Gives President 'Direct Access to His Military Commanders' - The job of the presidential military aide is, primarily, to be the emergency action officer for the president, but it also involves being the president’s military representative for official functions and his personal aide on weekends. Military aides carry what is called the “nuclear football,” which is a briefcase that holds critical codes that are necessary to initiate a nuclear attack, and other emergency operations details that the president might need when he is away from the White House. Gould will explain that, as the presidential military aide, his role is “to ensure that the commander in chief had direct access to his military commanders; specifically, in the realm of if we were under a nuclear attack, I would present the president with his options.” [Lompoc Record, 9/11/2011; Santa Barbara News-Press, 9/11/2011]

Entity Tags: Thomas Gould, Paul Montanus

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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