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Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001: Bush’s Chief of Staff Card Learns of the Second Crash at the WTC and Thinks Bin Laden Is to Blame

Andrew Card.Andrew Card. [Source: Texas A&M University]Andrew Card, President Bush’s chief of staff, is told that a second plane has crashed into the World Trade Center and immediately thinks Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda are responsible for the incident. [NBC News, 9/10/2009; BBC, 9/9/2011] Card, along with a number of other White House staffers, is in the “staff hold,” a room located next to the classroom at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, where Bush is currently participating in a reading demonstration. [McClellan, 2008, pp. 101; Rove, 2010, pp. 250] He learned about the first crash at the WTC from Navy Captain Deborah Loewer, director of the White House Situation Room, when he arrived with Bush at the school (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 11/26/2001; Dayton Daily News, 8/17/2003] Since then, he has been told, apparently by Loewer, that the aircraft that hit the WTC was a commercial jetliner rather than a small, twin-engine plane. [NBC News, 9/10/2009; BBC, 9/9/2011] Loewer now informs him that a second plane has crashed into the WTC. [McClatchy Newspapers, 8/29/2011; Dayton Daily News, 3/16/2013]
Situation Room Director Decided to Tell Card about the Crash - Loewer, who is in the staff hold, apparently learned about the second crash from Rob Hargis, the senior duty officer in the Situation Room, while she was on the phone with him. She heard the people in the Situation Room over the phone, shouting, “Holy shit!” presumably after they saw the second crash on television, at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). The president’s staffers, according to protocol, are meant to avoid distracting the president’s on-camera activities except when there is an emergency. Loewer was sure the current situation justified interrupting Bush’s activities and immediately decided to tell Card what had happened. [Bohn, 2015, pp. 214; Priess, 2016, pp. 240-241]
Card Thinks Al-Qaeda Is Responsible for the Crash - She says to him: “A second plane has impacted the towers. The nation is under attack.” [Dayton Daily News, 3/16/2013] Card is unaware that the planes that hit the WTC are suspected of having been hijacked. But, he will later comment, “I knew that [the second crash] couldn’t have been a coincidence.” [White House, 8/7/2002] He immediately thinks bin Laden and al-Qaeda are to blame for the crashes. [NBC News, 9/10/2009; Tiger Times, 9/12/2016] “My mind flashed to three initials: UBL. Usama bin Laden,” he will recall. [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] “My mind focused on the al-Qaeda network because I knew that they had attacked the World Trade Center before,” he will say. “I don’t know why I thought that, but I did and I just presumed that it was an Osama bin Laden or an al-Qaeda attack.” [NBC News, 9/10/2009]
Card Decides He Must Tell Bush about the Crash - A White House chief of staff frequently has to decide whether the president needs to know about something. [Eagle, 4/16/2012; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] Card determines right away, on this occasion, that Bush needs to be told what has happened. [NBC News, 9/10/2009; BBC, 9/9/2011] “I was very uncomfortable about interrupting the president during one of his events,” he will say. “But,” he will add, “I felt if I were president, I would want to know.” [White House, 8/16/2002] He will therefore enter the classroom where Bush is participating in the reading demonstration, and tell the president about the second crash and that America is under attack (see (9:07 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [White House, 8/7/2002; NBC News, 9/10/2009; BBC, 9/9/2011]

Entity Tags: Andrew Card, Deborah Loewer

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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