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Context of '(9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001: President Bush Informs School Principal of WTC Crash, Says Scheduled Event Will Go Ahead'

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George W. Bush taking the oath of office.George W. Bush taking the oath of office. [Source: White House/ Wally McNamara]George W. Bush is inaugurated as president, replacing President Bill Clinton. Bush is sworn in after a tumultuous, sharply disputed election that ended with a US Supreme Court decision in his favor (see 9:54 p.m. December 12, 2000). He takes the oath of office on the same Bible his father, George H.W. Bush, used in his own 1989 inauguration; the oath is administered by Chief Justice William Rehnquist. In his brief inaugural address, delivered outside the US Capitol, Bush asks Americans to “a commitment to principle with a concern for civility.… Civility is not a tactic or a sentiment. It is the determined choice of trust over cynicism, of community over chaos.” In words apparently chosen to reflect on the criticisms surrounding former President Clinton and his notorious affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, Bush says, “I will live and lead by these principles—to advance my convictions with civility, to pursue the public interest with courage, to speak for greater justice and compassion, to call for responsibility, and try to live it as well.” He continues addressing the American people, saying: “I ask you to be citizens. Citizens, not spectators. Citizens, not subjects. Responsible citizens, building communities of service and a nation of character.” At a post-ceremonial luncheon, Bush issues a series of executive orders, some designed to block or roll back several Clinton-era regulations. He also acknowledges that because of the election turmoil, many Americans believe “we can’t get anything done… nothing will happen, except for finger-pointing and name-calling and bitterness.” He then says: “I’m here to tell the country that things will get done. Republicans and Democrats will come together to do what’s right for America.” [New York Times, 1/21/2001]
Thousands of Protesters - Thousands of protesters line the streets during Bush’s ceremonial drive to the Capitol, a fact not heavily reported by many press outlets. Salon reports, “Not since Richard Nixon paraded down Pennsylvania Avenue in 1973 has a presidential inauguration drawn so many protesters—and last time, people were out to protest the Vietnam War.” Though Capitol Police refuse to estimate the size of the crowd lining the street, Salon reports that “many thousands of protesters were in evidence.” Liz Butler of the Justice Action Movement, the umbrella organization that helped coordinate the protests, says: “The level of people on the streets shows that people are really upset about lack of democratic process. They took it to the streets. We saw tens of thousands. We saw far more protesting Bush than supporting him.” Some of the people on the streets are Bush supporters, but many more are not, and carry signs such as “Bush Cheated,” “Hail to the Thief,” “Bush—Racism,” “Bushwhacked by the Supremes,” and others. The crowd, though outspoken in its protests and unrestrained in its heckling of Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, is generally peaceful, and no serious violence is reported, though a few minor altercations do take place, and large contingents of police in riot gear—including personnel from every police department in the District of Columbia as well as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and from departments in Maryland and Virginia—are on hand. At least one protester throws an egg at the limousine transporting Bush, Cheney, and their families to the inaugural ceremonies; perhaps in response to the protests, Bush breaks with tradition laid down by earlier presidents and does not walk any large portion of the parade route. Nine people are arrested for disorderly conduct, most for allegedly throwing bottles and other debris. Bulter says: “Of course, we’re ashamed that Bush has decided to be a ‘uniter’ by uniting people against him. They all chose to come out in the freezing rain—even the weather couldn’t stop these people.” Protester Mary Anne Cummings tells a reporter: “I think it’s important to remind the incoming administration the country does not want a right-wing mandate. They did not vote for a right-wing mandate.” [Salon, 1/20/2001; CNN, 1/20/2001; New York Times, 1/21/2001] Thousands of protesters march in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other cities as well. [CNN, 1/20/2001]

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

Bush continues to read the goat story.Bush continues to read the goat story. [Source: Lions Gate Films]President Bush stays in the classroom where he has been participating in a reading demonstration for at least two minutes after the demonstration has ended, asking the children questions and talking to the school’s principal, before joining his colleagues in another room and responding to the terrorist attacks. Despite being told that a second plane has crashed into the World Trade Center and America is under attack (see (9:07 a.m.) September 11, 2001), Bush has spent the last five minutes listening to some second graders reading a story about a pet goat (see (9:08 a.m.-9:13 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Times, 10/7/2002; Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 38-39]
Bush Stays in the Classroom and Chats with the Students - After the children finish the story, rather than leaving the classroom, Bush stays seated and talks to them. “Hoo! These are great readers,” he says. “Very impressive. Thank you all so very much for showing me your reading skills.” He then says: “I’ll bet they practice, too. Don’t you? Reading more than they watch TV?” Bush, who is “notoriously punctual,” is now “openly stretching out the moment” and “lollygagging as if he didn’t want the session to end,” journalist and author Bill Sammon will comment. He asks the children: “Anybody do that? Read more than you watch TV?” The children raise their hands and he says: “Oh, that’s great. Very good. Very important to practice.” He is “smiling as if he didn’t have a care in the world,” according to Sammon. Bush then turns to the teacher, Sandra Kay Daniels, and in a relaxed manner tells her, “Thanks for having me.” He says to the children, “I’m very impressed with how you read this book.” With the reading demonstration now over, Daniels instructs the children to close their books and place them under their chairs. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 89-90]
Bush Says He Will Talk about the Events in New York Later - After he learned that a second plane had crashed into the WTC, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer instructed the president’s advance team to get members of the press out of the classroom as soon as the reading demonstration ended, so they wouldn’t ask Bush about the events in New York before he had enough information to give an appropriate answer. [White House, 8/8/2002; Fleischer, 2005, pp. 139] Following this instruction, White House assistant press secretary Gordon Johndroe now urges the reporters in the room to leave. He says to them: “Thank you, press. If you could step out the door we came in, please.” However, before exiting, one reporter calls out, “Mr. President, are you aware of the reports of the plane crash in New York?” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 90; CBS, 9/11/2002] During the reading demonstration, Fleischer held up a message instructing Bush to not say anything yet about the attacks (see (Shortly After 9:07 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Times, 10/7/2002] In line with this instruction, Bush tells the reporter, “I’ll talk about it later.”
Bush Talks to the Principal before Leaving the Room - The president then steps forward and shakes hands with Daniels. “He was taking his good old time,” Sammon will comment. Bush waits until all the members of the press have left the room and then pulls aside Gwendolyn Tosé-Rigell, the school’s principal, to explain to her that his plans have changed. “I’m so sorry, but a tragedy has occurred,” he says. He tells Tosé-Rigell about the second crash at the WTC and says that, instead of giving a talk about education, he will have to give a speech to the nation from the school, to comment on the terrorist attacks (see 9:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 90-91] He then goes to a holding room next to the classroom, where he will talk on the phone with officials in Washington, DC, and work on the statement that he wants to deliver before leaving the school (see (9:16 a.m.-9:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Times, 10/7/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39] Bush was supposed to leave the classroom at 9:15 a.m., according to his original schedule. [US President, 9/2001] Despite everything that has happened, he leaves the room close to this time—“shortly before 9:15,” according to the 9/11 Commission Report. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Gwendolyn Tosé-Rigell, Gordon Johndroe, Sandra Kay Daniels

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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