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Context of '(8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001: President Bush Chats with Greeting Committee Instead of Taking Urgent Call from Rice'

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Bush’s travels in the Sarasota, Florida, region, with key locations marked.Bush’s travels in the Sarasota, Florida, region, with key locations marked. [Source: Yvonne Vermillion/ MagicGraphix.com]When Flight 11 hits the WTC at 8:46 a.m., President Bush’s motorcade is crossing the John Ringling Causeway on the way to Booker Elementary School from the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort on Longboat Key. [Washington Times, 10/8/2002] White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer is riding in a motorcade van, along with adviser Karl Rove and Mike Morell, the CIA’s White House briefer. Shortly after the attack, Fleischer is talking on his cell phone, when he blurts out: “Oh, my God, I don’t believe it. A plane just hit the World Trade Center.” (The person with whom he is speaking remains unknown.) Fleischer is told he will be needed on arrival at the school to discuss reports of the crash. [Christian Science Monitor, 9/17/2001; Albuquerque Tribune, 9/10/2002; Tenet, 2007, pp. 165-166] This call takes place “just minutes” after the first news reports of the attack according to one account, or “just before 9:00 a.m.” according to another. [New York Times, 12/1/2002; Kessler, 2004, pp. 138] Fleischer asks Morell if he knows anything about a small plane hitting the World Trade Center. Morell doesn’t, and immediately calls the CIA Operations Center. He is informed that the plane that hit the WTC wasn’t small. [Kessler, 2003, pp. 193; Tenet, 2007, pp. 165-166] Congressman Dan Miller also says he is told about the crash just before meeting Bush at Booker Elementary School at 8:55 a.m. [Sarasota Magazine, 9/19/2001] Some reporters waiting for Bush to arrive also learn of the crash just minutes after it happens. [CBS News, 9/11/2002] It would make sense that the president would be told about the crash immediately, at the same time that others hear about it. His limousine has “Five small black antennae sprouted from the lid of the trunk in order to give Bush the best mobile communications money could buy.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 38] Sarasota Magazine in fact claims that Bush is on Highway 301, just north of Main Street, on his way to the school, when he receives a phone call informing him a plane has crashed in New York City. [Sarasota Magazine, 9/19/2001] Yet the official story remains that he is not told about the crash until he arrives at the school (see (Between 8:55 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Author James Bamford comments, “Despite having a secure STU-III phone next to him in the presidential limousine and an entire national security staff at the White House, it appears that the president of the United States knew less than tens of millions of other people in every part of the country who were watching the attack as it unfolded.” [Bamford, 2004, pp. 17]

Entity Tags: World Trade Center, George W. Bush, James Bamford, Michael J. Morell, Ari Fleischer, Karl C. Rove, Dan Miller

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice learns from her executive assistant that a plane has hit the World Trade Center, but assumes the crash was an accident. [BBC Radio 4, 8/1/2002 pdf file] Rice is in her office at the White House (see 6:00 a.m. September 11, 2001) and, as she will later recall, “My day was shaping up as a fairly normal day.” She has been given her intelligence briefing and is standing at her desk, getting ready to go to her senior staff meeting. [White House, 8/6/2002] At “8:47 a.m. or so,” according to Rice’s later recollection, Rice’s executive assistant, Army Lieutenant Colonel Tony Crawford, comes into the office. [White House, 10/24/2001; BBC Radio 4, 8/1/2002 pdf file] Crawford informs Rice of the crash in New York, saying, “Do you know a plane has hit the World Trade Center?” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] Rice will later recall, “I thought, ‘That’s odd, that’s a strange accident.’” She asks Crawford, “What kind of plane, Tony?” He replies, “Twin engine, they think.” [White House, 10/24/2001] According to journalist and author Elisabeth Bumiller, Rice “assumed that a small plane had veered out of control.” [Bumiller, 2007, pp. xi] Rice will later comment, “It just didn’t come to mind immediately that it might be terrorism.” [White House, 8/6/2002] She tells Crawford, “I better call the president.” [White House, 10/24/2001] She will then call President Bush, who is in Florida for an education event (see (Shortly Before 9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [BBC Radio 4, 8/1/2002 pdf file; White House, 8/2/2002] While Rice is talking over the phone with Bush, Crawford will inform her that the plane that hit the WTC was in fact a commercial aircraft, not a small twin-engine plane. [White House, 10/24/2001; White House, 11/1/2001]

Entity Tags: Condoleezza Rice, Tony Crawford

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Adam Putnam.Adam Putnam. [Source: Congressional Pictorial Directory]At the Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, a small greeting committee has been waiting for the president to arrive. Among this group are two congressmen, Adam Putnam (R-FL) and Dan Miller (R-FL). A White House staffer has informed them that the president has an important call to take from Condoleezza Rice. According to Putnam, they were told, “When he arrives, and he’ll be here in a minute, he’s going to walk past you. He’s not being rude; he’s just got to take this phone call.” [GW Hatchet, 4/8/2002; St. Petersburg Times, 9/8/2002] President Bush reportedly is informed of the first WTC crash when he arrives at the school (see (Between 8:55 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Like others traveling in the president’s motorcade (see (Between 8:46 a.m. and 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001), Captain Deborah Loewer, the director of the White House Situation Room, learned of the crash during the journey. She runs up to the president, she later says, “[a]s soon as the motorcade stopped,” and informs him of it (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Dayton Daily News, 8/17/2003; Springfield News-Sun, 7/6/2006] Yet in spite of therefore likely already knowing of the crash, Bush seems in no hurry to take Rice’s call. Putnam later recalls, “Well, he comes up and does not go past us. He stops and talks with us, having a good chat with the teacher of the year.” (This is Edwina Oliver, who is also part of the greeting committee.) White House chief of staff Andrew Card says, “Mr. President. You have a phone call from National Security Adviser Rice you need to take.” According to Putnam, Bush “says OK. [But he] goes on talking with the teacher of the year. ‘I’ll be right there.’ Card comes back to him, grabs him by the arm and says, ‘Mr. President, you need to take this call right now.’” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 43; GW Hatchet, 4/8/2002; St. Petersburg Times, 9/8/2002] The president then takes the call from Rice (see (Shortly Before 9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Andrew Card, Dan Miller, Condoleezza Rice, Adam Putnam, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice phones President Bush, who is away in Florida, to pass on to him the news that a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center, and she tells the president that the plane involved was a commercial jetliner, not a light aircraft. [White House, 11/1/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 35; Bush, 2010, pp. 126] Rice, who is in her office at the White House, has just been informed of the crash by her executive assistant, but she mistakenly believes it was an accident involving a small plane (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [White House, 10/24/2001; MSNBC, 9/11/2002] Bush has just arrived at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota for an education event there (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 41-42; BBC Radio 4, 8/1/2002 pdf file]
Bush Calls WTC Crash a 'Strange Accident' - Rice calls Navy Captain Deborah Loewer, the director of the White House Situation Room, who is traveling with the president, and Loewer fetches Bush. [White House, 10/24/2001] Bush goes to a classroom that has been converted into a communications center for the traveling White House staff and talks to Rice using a secure phone there. [Bush, 2010, pp. 126] Rice says, “Mr. President, a plane crashed into the World Trade Center.” [White House, 10/24/2001] Bush has already been informed of this by members of his entourage (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Between 8:55 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 11/26/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 42; Bush, 2010, pp. 126] He says, “That’s a really strange accident,” and Rice replies, “Yeah, it really is.” [Bumiller, 2007, pp. xi-xii]
Bush Told that Crash Involved a Commercial Plane - Bush asks Rice, “What kind of plane?” and Rice says she has been told it was a twin-engine plane. She tells Bush she will let him know if she learns anything more about the crash. Around this time, Rice’s executive assistant, Army Lieutenant Colonel Tony Crawford, comes and tells Rice that it is now believed the plane that hit the WTC was a commercial plane. Rice passes on this information to Bush and then says, “That’s all we know right now, Mr. President.” [White House, 10/24/2001; White House, 11/1/2001; Newsweek, 12/30/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 35] Bush will later recall that at this moment, “I was stunned.” He thinks to himself: “That plane must have had the worst pilot in the world. How could he possibly have flown into a skyscraper on a clear day? Maybe he’d had a heart attack.” Bush mutters, “There’s one terrible pilot.” He tells Rice to stay on top of the situation and then asks his communications director, Dan Bartlett, to work on a statement promising the full support of federal emergency management services. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 42-43; Bush, 2010, pp. 126-127]
Bush and Rice Continue with Their Schedules - After the call ends, Bush heads on to watch a children’s reading drill at the school (see (9:03 a.m.-9:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and Rice goes to her senior staff meeting (see (9:04 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [White House, 8/2/2002; White House, 8/6/2002; Washington Times, 10/7/2002] Representative Dan Miller (R-FL), who is waiting in a receiving line to meet the president, has been told to hold on while Bush takes the call from Rice. When Bush comes over to Miller after the call, he appears unbothered. Miller will recall: “[I]t was nothing different from the normal, brief greeting with the president. I don’t think he was aware at the time, maybe, of the seriousness.” [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004] Author James Bamford will comment that at this time, “neither Rice nor Bush was aware that the United States had gone to ‘battle stations’ alert and had scrambled fighter jets into the air to intercept and possibly take hostile action against multiple hijacked airliners, something that was then known by hundreds of others within NORAD, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the Pentagon.” [Bamford, 2004, pp. 17]

Entity Tags: Condoleezza Rice, Dan Bartlett, Dan Miller, Deborah Loewer, George W. Bush, Tony Crawford

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Gwendolyn Tosé-Rigell.Gwendolyn Tosé-Rigell. [Source: Rod Millington / Sarasota Herald-Tribune]President Bush informs the principal of the Florida school he is visiting about the plane crash at the World Trade Center, but says he is still going ahead with his planned event, listening to a children’s reading drill at the school. [Associated Press, 8/25/2002; Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/10/2002] Bush recently arrived at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and has just talked over the phone with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice about the crash, but he thinks it was an accident (see (Shortly Before 9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [BBC Radio 4, 8/1/2002 pdf file; Bush, 2010, pp. 126-127] The school’s principal, Gwendolyn Tosé-Rigell, is now summoned to the room where Bush received the call, to talk to the president. Tosé-Rigell will later recall that Bush “said a commercial plane has hit the World Trade Center, and we’re going to go ahead and go on, we’re going on to do the reading thing anyway.” She will comment, “At that point my summation was they wanted him to know about this because it was important, but it couldn’t be anything huge.” Bush then heads into the classroom of Sandra Kay Daniels, to listen to the reading drill (see (9:03 a.m.-9:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 8/25/2002; Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/10/2002]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Gwendolyn Tosé-Rigell

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

President Bush enters Sandra Kay Daniels’ classroom.President Bush enters Sandra Kay Daniels’ classroom. [Source: Lions Gate Films]President Bush enters Sandra Kay Daniels’ second-grade class for a photo-op to promote his education policies. [Daily Mail, 9/8/2002] Numerous reporters who travel with the president, as well as members of the local media, watch from the back of the room. [Associated Press, 8/25/2002] Secret Service agents protecting the president are lying in the trusses above the classroom. [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/10/2002] Altogether, there are about 150 people in the room, 16 of whom are children in the class. Bush is introduced to the children and poses for a number of pictures. The teacher then leads the students through some reading exercises (video footage shows this lasts about three minutes). [Salon, 9/12/2001] Bush later claims that during this lesson, he is thinking what he will say about the WTC crash. “I was concentrating on the program at this point, thinking about what I was going to say. Obviously, I felt it was an accident. I was concerned about it, but there were no alarm bells.” [Washington Times, 10/7/2002] The children are just getting their books from under their seats to read a story together when Chief of Staff Andrew Card comes in to tell Bush of the second WTC crash. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Washington Times, 10/8/2002] According to the Washington Times, Card comes in at the conclusion of the first half of the planned lesson, and “[seizes] a pause in the reading drill to walk up to Mr. Bush’s seat.” [Washington Times, 10/7/2002; Washington Times, 10/8/2002]

Entity Tags: Andrew Card, Sandra Kay Daniels, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice is informed of the second plane hitting the World Trade Center and immediately realizes it is a terrorist attack. Rice’s executive assistant, Army Lieutenant Colonel Tony Crawford, informed Rice of the first crash shortly before 9:00 a.m. while she was in her office at the White House, but, Rice will later say, she had thought it was a “strange accident” (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). Rice had gone down to the conference area of the White House Situation Room for her daily meeting with her top aides. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002; Bumiller, 2007, pp. xi-xii] According to her own later recollections, a few minutes into this meeting, Crawford comes in and hands her a note saying a second plane has hit the WTC. Rice will comment: “I thought, ‘My God, this is a terrorist attack.‘… I knew right away, right away, because that—that couldn’t be coincidence that two planes had hit the World Trade Center that morning.” She gets up and tells Anna Perez, her communications counselor who is with her in the meeting, “Find Dick Clarke,” referring to the White House counterterrorism chief. [White House, 10/24/2001; PBS Frontline, 7/12/2002; MSNBC, 9/11/2002] According to Perez’s later recollection, Rice also tells the others in the room about the second plane hitting the WTC. [White House, 11/1/2001] After saying to her staff, “I have to go,” Rice abruptly heads out. [Newsweek, 12/30/2001] However, Josh Bolten, the deputy White House chief of staff, will contradict Rice’s account and say that he, not Crawford, alerts Rice to the second crash at the WTC. Bolten will recall that he learned of the crash while in the Situation Room and then, realizing it was not an accident, walks into the conference area where Rice is holding her meeting. He asks Rice to step outside the room for a minute and then tells her, “A second plane has hit; this is not an accident, it is an attack” (see (9:03 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Vice President Dick Cheney, Bolten, and Clarke will indicate that Rice initially goes from her staff meeting to Cheney’s office (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [NBC, 9/16/2001; Clarke, 2004, pp. 1-2; C-SPAN, 10/6/2013] But in her own recollections, Rice will make no mention of this, saying that she goes straight from the conference area to the Situation Room’s operations center, intending to assemble a crisis meeting of the national security team (see (9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [O, the Oprah Magazine, 2/1/2002; PBS Frontline, 7/12/2002; BBC Radio 4, 8/1/2002 pdf file; MSNBC, 9/11/2002; Bumiller, 2007, pp. xii]

Entity Tags: Tony Crawford, Anna Perez, Joshua Bolten, Condoleezza Rice

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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