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(9:08 a.m.-9:13 a.m.) September 11, 2001: President Bush Listens to Children Reading, despite Knowing the US Is under Attack

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

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