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Context of '(8:56 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001: President Bush’s Secret Service Agents Have a Poor Awareness of the Attacks on the WTC'

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Bush’s motorcade arrives at Booker Elementary School.Bush’s motorcade arrives at Booker Elementary School. [Source: Lions Gate Films]President Bush’s motorcade arrives at Booker Elementary School for a photo-op to promote his education policies. [New York Times, 9/16/2001; Sarasota Magazine, 11/2001; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/10/2002; Albuquerque Tribune, 9/10/2002; ABC News, 9/11/2002; Washington Times, 10/7/2002] If he left the Colony Resort around 8:35 a.m. as reported, the timing of his arrival at 8:55 a.m. is consistent with the fact that the trip from the resort to the school is said to take 20 minutes. The Booker Elementary School is reportedly “well-equipped for the brief presidential visit. Police and Secret Service agents [are] on the roof, on horseback and in every hallway. The White House [has] installed 49 new phone lines for staffers and reporters.” [New York Times, 9/16/2001; St. Petersburg Times, 9/8/2002; New York Times, 12/1/2002]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Dave Wilkinson.Dave Wilkinson. [Source: Tennessee Tech University]Members of the Secret Service who are traveling with President Bush are unable to obtain information about the attacks on the World Trade Center. Apparently describing events after Bush and his entourage arrive at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001), Dave Wilkinson, assistant special agent in charge of the presidential protection division, will later recall, “We began speaking to experts back at the White House.” However, he will say, “No one knew anything.” [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] Other members of Bush’s entourage are also apparently poorly informed about the terrorist attacks. While Bush is at the school, “No one in the [president’s] traveling party had any information… that other aircraft were hijacked or missing,” the 9/11 Commission Report will state. Furthermore, although members of Bush’s traveling staff are in contact with the White House Situation Room, no one with the president is in contact with the Pentagon. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39]

Entity Tags: Dave Wilkinson, US Secret Service

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 (Shortly After 8:55 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 9:02 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 9:02 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 the second-grade classroom of teacher Sandra Kay Daniels at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, where he is going to listen to the children reading. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 43; Associated Press, 8/25/2002] Bush is scheduled to observe a series of reading drills in the class and the demonstration is set to end at 9:15 a.m. [US President, 9/2001] He arrived at the school shortly before 9:00 a.m. (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 41] Since then, he has been told that a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Shortly After 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and that the plane involved was a commercial airliner (see (Shortly Before 9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Dayton Daily News, 8/17/2003; Rove, 2010, pp. 249-250; Bohn, 2015, pp. 214]
Bush Enters the Classroom Two Minutes Late - After taking a call from National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Bush enters Daniels’ classroom for the reading demonstration two minutes later than planned, at 9:02 a.m. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 42-43; Washington Times, 10/7/2002] About 60 people are in the room, including 16 second graders and Daniels, their teacher. [Sarasota Magazine, 11/2001; South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 9/11/2011] Reporters who are traveling with the president and members of the local media are assembled at the back of the room. [Associated Press, 8/25/2002] Secret Service agents are lying in the trusses above the room. [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/10/2002]
Bush Is Introduced to the Class - Gwendolyn Tosé-Rigell, the school principal, accompanies Bush into the room. She says hello to the children and then tells them, “Would you please stand and recognize the president of the United States—President Bush.” After saying, “Good morning,” Bush introduces the children to Secretary of Education Rod Paige and Florida Lieutenant Governor Frank Brogan, who come in behind him and then take their positions at the side of the room. Bush tells the children, “Good to meet you all.” Tosé-Rigell then introduces the president to Daniels. He goes over to the teacher and shakes her hand. After instructing the children to sit down, he tells the class: “It’s really exciting for me to be here. I want to thank Ms. Daniels for being a teacher. I want to thank Gwen for being a principal. And I want to thank you all for practicing reading so much. It’s really important.” Finally, a minute after he entered the classroom, Daniels and the children begin their reading demonstration.
Bush Still Thinks the Crash at the WTC Was an Accident - As he watches the children reading, Bush will start thinking about the statement he will need to make about the crash at the WTC, although he is not particularly troubled about the incident at the moment. “I was concentrating on the [reading] program at this point, thinking about what I was going to say,” he will later recall. He will add: “Obviously, I felt [the crash] was an accident. I was concerned about it, but there were no alarm bells.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 43-49; Washington Times, 10/7/2002] A few minutes after the reading demonstration begins, Andrew Card, Bush’s chief of staff, will enter the room, and whisper to the president that a second plane has crashed into the WTC and America is under attack (see (9:07 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but despite hearing this devastating news, Bush will stay in the room and listen to the rest of the demonstration (see (9:08 a.m.-9:13 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 83-91; Washington Times, 10/7/2002; Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 38-39]

Entity Tags: Frank Brogan, Gwendolyn Tosé-Rigell, Rod Paige, US Secret Service, George W. Bush, Sandra Kay Daniels

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Edward Marinzel.Edward Marinzel. [Source: Command Group]Secret Service agents and other staffers with President Bush in Florida are worried about Bush’s safety while he is at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, and some of them are concerned that terrorists might try to attack the school. [Studies in Intelligence, 9/2006 pdf file; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] Bush and his entourage arrived at the school, where the president is now attending a reading demonstration, shortly before 9:00 a.m. (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 41; Washington Times, 10/7/2002] Members of the president’s staff who are in a holding room at the school while Bush listens to the reading demonstration are promptly informed about the second hijacked plane crashing into the World Trade Center after the attack occurs (see Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [White House, 8/12/2002; White House, 8/12/2002] Karl Rove, Bush’s senior adviser, who is at the school, will later comment that while details of the terrorist attacks in New York are “hazy,” it is clear that “unknown assailants [are] executing a well-planned attack, of unknown dimensions, against America.” [Rove, 2010, pp. 251] Secret Service agents responsible for protecting the president therefore have serious concerns that Bush could be in danger at the school.
Secret Service Worries that Bush Could Be a Target - Dave Wilkinson, assistant special agent in charge of the presidential protection division, will recall that he and other agents at the school are worried that Bush could be targeted by the terrorists. They ask each other, “Is there any direction of interest towards the president… or is this just an attack on New York?” The Secret Service determines that the attacks “might be an effort to decapitate the government,” according to Rove. [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] The belief of Bush’s agents is, “[T]he president’s whereabouts are known; somebody is going to be flying an airplane into the school,” Rove will say. [Austin American-Statesman, 5/18/2013]
Lead Agent Wants to Leave the School 'as Fast as Possible' - Edward Marinzel, the head of Bush’s Secret Service detail, has “quite a worried look on his face,” Mike Morell, Bush’s CIA briefer, will recall. [Studies in Intelligence, 9/2006 pdf file] Marinzel “wanted to get the hell out of [the school] as fast as possible,” Morell will say. Representative Adam Putnam (R-FL), who is at the school, overhears Secret Service agents telling members of Bush’s staff, “We need to get [Bush] secure.” But before the president and his entourage leave the school, there is “angst from the Secret Service that we don’t know what’s out there,” according to Andrew Card, Bush’s chief of staff.
CIA Officer Is Worried about a Plane Crashing into the School - Other members of Bush’s entourage are concerned about the president’s vulnerability while he is at the school. There is “the fear of the unknown” among the president’s staff, according to Brian Montgomery, the White House’s director of advance. “We didn’t know if someone had put a biological agent or chemical agent at the school,” he will say. [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] Morell is particularly worried that Bush could be the target of an attack. He will recall that he grows “increasingly concerned about [Bush’s] safety as well as the safety of others at the school” while Bush is in the holding room, where he goes after listening to the reading demonstration (see (9:16 a.m.-9:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Studies in Intelligence, 9/2006 pdf file] “I was really worried that someone was going to fly a plane into that school,” Morell will say. [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] He thinks about telling Marinzel of his concern, but decides not to, determining that Marinzel has probably already considered this scenario. [Studies in Intelligence, 9/2006 pdf file; Morell and Harlow, 2015, pp. 49]
Bush's Visit Is Public Knowledge - Bush’s plan to visit Sarasota today was publicly announced four days ago, on September 7 (see September 7, 2001). [White House, 9/7/2001] “The fact that the president would be at Booker Elementary at this hour, on this day, had been public knowledge for days,” Morell will point out. [Morell and Harlow, 2015, pp. 49] The planned visit has been “big news” in Sarasota, according to journalist and author Mark Bowden. [Bowden, 2012, pp. 3] Therefore, Morell will say, “anyone could have known about it.” [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016]
Bush Would Be Safer in His Limousine - Philip Melanson, an expert on the Secret Service, will note that at the current time, Bush would be “safer in that presidential limo, which is bombproof and blastproof and bulletproof.” [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004] And yet, apparently, no attempt is made to evacuate him from the school and move him to somewhere more secure for more than 30 minutes after the second hijacked plane crashed into the WTC, and it became obvious that America was under attack. Instead, Bush will only leave the school at around 9:35 a.m. (see (9:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Times, 10/8/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39]

Entity Tags: Dave Wilkinson, Adam Putnam, Brian Montgomery, US Secret Service, Andrew Card, Michael J. Morell, Edward Marinzel, George W. Bush, Karl C. Rove, Philip Melanson

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

NORAD’s Continental United States Region (CONR) is told it will not need to provide fighter jets to escort Air Force One when the plane takes off from Sarasota, Florida. [National Guard Bureau, 11/19/2001] While President Bush is visiting the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001), Air Force One is on the ground at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004 pdf file; US Air Force, 2/29/2012 pdf file] Major General Larry Arnold, the CONR commander, will later recall that around this time, CONR “knew that the president was down in Florida” but it “didn’t know what he was going to do.” “Eventually,” he will say, “we asked the question: If he takes off, do we need to escort?” Arnold will not state who CONR, which is based at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, asks this question to. But the person or agency says no. CONR will only be asked to provide fighters to escort Air Force One after 9:54 a.m., when the plane takes off from Sarasota (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001). “[T]he airplane took off and we got immediate word that the Secret Service had asked us to escort [it],” Arnold will recall. [National Guard Bureau, 11/19/2001] He will say that CONR “received tasking from the Secret Service through the Joint [Chiefs of] Staff and NORAD to follow the president and protect him.” [Code One Magazine, 1/2002] In Florida, NORAD has two fighters on alert at Homestead Air Reserve Base and two fighters on alert at Tyndall Air Force Base. [Airman, 12/1999; St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004] However, its Southeast Air Defense Sector (SEADS) will scramble fighters from Ellington Field in Texas to escort Air Force One (see (After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Your Houston News, 9/19/2001; Rosenfeld and Gross, 2007, pp. 40] Furthermore, these fighters will only reach Air Force One at around 11:29 a.m., more than 90 minutes after the plane takes off (see (11:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 9/11/2001; St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004]

Entity Tags: Continental US NORAD Region, Larry Arnold

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Richard Tubb.Richard Tubb. [Source: US Air Force]Dr. Richard Tubb, the White House physician, gives everyone on Air Force One a week’s worth of Cipro, a drug used to treat anthrax. [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] Air Force One, with President Bush on board, took off from Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska at around 4:33 p.m. (see (4:33 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/12/2001; Draper, 2007, pp. 143]
Doctor Is Concerned about a Possible Biological Attack - Tubb will later recall that as the plane is then flying toward Washington, DC, “The thing at that moment I was most worried about was a biologic [attack].” In order to protect the White House staffers on the plane in the “unlikely but high-risk scenario” of such an attack occurring, he decides there is “little harm” in giving them antibiotics. He therefore gives everyone on the plane—presumably including the president—a week’s worth of Cipro. [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] Cipro is an antibiotic that is commonly used to treat anthrax. [Forbes, 10/17/2001]
Passengers Are Given an Envelope Containing Cipro - Brian Montgomery, the White House’s director of advance, notices Tubb giving the drug to the passengers on Air Force One. He sees the doctor leaning over each person, whispering to them, patting them on the shoulder, and giving them a small envelope containing Cipro. When Tubb reaches Montgomery, he asks him, “How do you feel?” Montgomery says he feels fine. “You don’t feel disoriented?” Tubb asks and Montgomery says no. Tubb asks, “Have you ever heard of Cipro?” and comments, “We don’t know what might’ve been in that school”—referring to the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, which Bush visited this morning (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001)—“so we’re just being careful.” Montgomery asks what the drug is used for and Tubb replies, “In case it’s anthrax.” [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016]
Doctor Will Later Be Pleased at His Actions - Letters containing anthrax spores will be sent to media organizations and US government offices later this month and in October, leading to five people dying and a further 17 people becoming ill but surviving (see October 5-November 21, 2001). [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 12/8/2001; BBC, 9/25/2006; CNN, 2/19/2010; National Public Radio, 2/15/2011] Commenting on this, Tubb will reflect, “It was scary later realizing later that fall [that] anthrax wasn’t as unimaginable as we’d thought.” “I was suddenly real pleased with how we’d reacted on the plane,” he will say. [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] Tubb is director of the White House Medical Unit and physician to the White House. He oversees all healthcare services within the White House and Camp David, and aboard executive aircraft. [US Air Force, 7/2006] Later today, staffers accompanying Vice President Dick Cheney to Camp David (see Shortly After 10:00 p.m. September 11, 2001) will also be given Cipro, supposedly as “a precaution” (see Evening, September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 10/23/2001]

Entity Tags: Richard Tubb, Brian Montgomery

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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