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(8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Bush’s Adviser Karl Rove Phoned by His Assistant and Alerted to Crash at the WTC

Susan Ralston.Susan Ralston. [Source: White House]Susan Ralston, an assistant to Karl Rove, President Bush’s senior adviser, calls Rove and alerts him to the plane crash at the World Trade Center, which leads Rove to become one of the first people to tell Bush about the incident. [Rove, 2010, pp. 249-250; Bridgeland, 2012, pp. 3] Rove is accompanying Bush on his visit to the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 35] Ralston, as Rove’s executive assistant, is responsible for coordinating public events involving the president. Her office, on the second floor of the West Wing of the White House, maintains a secure and direct phone line to Rove and the president. [Filipinas, 2/2004] John Bridgeland, the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, will later write that Ralston learned of the crash after a friend of his called his assistant, Britt Grant, at the White House and told her CNN was reporting that a plane had hit the WTC. Grant then called Ralston and passed on this information. Ralston now calls Rove with the news. [Bridgeland, 2012, pp. 3]
Rove Learns of Crash Just after Arriving at School - Rove will recall that Ralston calls him “as the president had literally just gotten out of the car and was shaking hands” with people who are there to greet him outside the school. [New Yorker, 9/25/2001] Ralston, according to Rove, says that “a plane hit—struck—the World Trade Center and it was unclear whether it was a military, a commercial, whether it was a prop or a jet.” Rove then goes to tell Bush what has happened. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] He will write in his 2010 memoir that he walks over to Bush, who is “shaking hands with staff and teachers outside the school, and passed on the information.” In response, according to Rove, Bush “nodded, shot me a quizzical look, and said, ‘Get more details.’” “We both thought it an odd, tragic accident,” Rove will comment. [Rove, 2010, pp. 249-250] But in an earlier account, Rove will say that after Ralston informs him of the crash, “I told [White House chief of staff] Andy Card, who proceeded to tell the president.” [New Yorker, 9/25/2001] Rove will state that he is “the first to tell [Bush] the news” (see (Shortly After 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Rove, 2010, pp. 250] Other accounts, however, will indicate that Bush first learns about the crash from Deborah Loewer, the director of the White House Situation Room (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 11/26/2001]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, John Bridgeland, Andrew Card, Karl C. Rove, Susan Ralston

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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