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Context of '(After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Superintendent Doesn’t Send School Children Home, Despite Danger'

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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

At the Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, where President Bush is staging a photo-op, White House security staff reportedly urge school officials to send the students home. As the Arlington Heights Daily Herald later points out, “the well-publicized event at the school assured Bush’s location that day was no secret,” and therefore “Bush’s presence made even the planned reading event a perceived target.” Yet Wilma Hamilton, the superintendent of schools for Sarasota County, who is at the school for Bush’s visit, refuses their advice. In spite of the danger, she later says she is glad she made this decision: “I couldn’t see sending the children home. There’d be no one there. All they would have to look at were those images on television.” Whether the school officials are advised to send the children home before or after the president leaves the place is unspecified. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 43; Daily Herald (Arlington Heights), 9/11/2006]

Entity Tags: Wilma Hamilton

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

President Bush and Sandra Kay Daniels read while the media watches.President Bush and Sandra Kay Daniels read while the media watches. [Source: White House / Eric Draper]President Bush stays in a classroom at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, and listens to the students reading a story about a pet goat for five minutes, despite having just been told that the nation is under attack. [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 38-39] Bush has been in the classroom since 9:02 a.m., listening to 16 second graders demonstrating their reading skills (see 9:02 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 8/25/2002; Washington Times, 10/8/2002] Andrew Card, his chief of staff, has just come into the room, and told him a second plane has crashed into the World Trade Center and America is under attack (see (9:07 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The teacher, Sandra Kay Daniels, now continues the reading demonstration, instructing the children: “At the count of three. Everyone should be on page 163.” The children then read a story called The Pet Goat, which is about a girl’s pet goat that protects the family home from a burglar. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 83-85; Washington Times, 10/7/2002; Editor & Publisher, 7/2/2004; Wall Street Journal, 7/2/2004] Despite having just heard that the nation is under attack, Bush picks up his copy of the textbook and tries to follow along as the children read. [Tampa Tribune, 9/1/2002; Washington Times, 10/7/2002] He will later explain why he stays where he is and listens to the rest of the reading demonstration, rather than leaving the classroom to go and respond to the attacks, writing: “I knew my reaction would be recorded and beamed throughout the world. The nation would be in shock; the president could not be. If I stormed out hastily, it would scare the children and send ripples of panic throughout the country.” [Bush, 2010, pp. 127]
Bush Remains Composed - Bush is in fact surprisingly calm for the rest of the reading demonstration. He “maintained his composure and sent an image of calm to the nation,” White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who is in the classroom at this time, will comment. [Fleischer, 2005, pp. 140] “He didn’t change his facial expression; he didn’t show what obviously had to be nothing but alarm and concern,” Fleischer will say. [White House, 8/8/2002] “It was pretty amazing to me how he could not show any sign of panic,” White House photographer Eric Draper, who is also in the classroom, will comment. [Albuquerque Tribune, 9/10/2002] A video recording of the event will show that Bush listens to the children reading The Pet Goat for five minutes. Finally, the children read the last line of the story, saying aloud, “More—to—come.” But even then, Bush will stay in the classroom for at least two more minutes, asking the children questions and talking briefly with the school’s principal (see (9:13 a.m.-9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Times, 10/7/2002; Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Ari Fleischer, Eric Draper, George W. Bush, Sandra Kay Daniels

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Former Democratic congressman Lee Hamilton is considered by his party for the position of vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission, but does not get the appointment, which goes to former Senator George Mitchell (see November 27, 2002). Hamilton, who is nonetheless appointed to the Commission as an ordinary member, is rejected as vice chairman by Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle and other leading Democrats because he is seen as too soft on Republicans—he lacks “a taste for partisan fights,” and seems “always to assume the best about people, Republicans included.” He is also friends with two of the investigation’s targets, Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who he calls “Dick” and “Don,” and Cheney’s White House counsel, David Addington. He got to know Cheney during the Iran-Contra investigation, when Cheney was the ranking Republican on the committee and Hamilton failed to distinguish himself (see Mid-1980s), as he did over the “October Surprise” affair (see 1992-January 1993). Author Philip Shenon will comment, “While [Hamilton] might disagree with Cheney and Rumsfeld on policy, Hamilton trusted both men always to tell the truth.” [Shenon, 2008, pp. 32-33] However, Mitchell will subsequently resign and Hamilton will replace him as vice chairman (see December 11, 2002). In this role Hamilton will have good relations with the Bush White House (see March 2003-July 2004 and Early July 2004).

Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, 9/11 Commission, Lee Hamilton, Donald Rumsfeld, Philip Shenon

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline, Iran-Contra Affair

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