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Context of '(Shortly After 9:07 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Press Secretary Fleischer Holds Up a Message, Instructing President Bush to Say Nothing about the Attacks'

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Captain Deborah Loewer.
Captain Deborah Loewer. [Source: Military Sealift Command]Navy Captain Deborah Loewer, director of the White House Situation Room, tells President Bush a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center when his limousine arrives at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, where he is going to attend a reading demonstration. [Associated Press, 11/26/2001; Dayton Daily News, 8/17/2003] Loewer learned about the crash when Rob Hargis, the senior duty officer in the Situation Room, called her as she was being driven to the school and told her what had happened (see (Between 8:48 a.m. and 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [McClatchy Newspapers, 8/29/2011; Priess, 2016, pp. 239-240] As soon as the president’s motorcade arrives at the school (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001), she runs toward Bush’s limousine to pass on the news to the president. [Dayton Daily News, 8/17/2003] She approaches Bush and Andrew Card, his chief of staff, as they are walking toward the school’s entrance. She says to Bush, “Mr. President, the Situation Room is reporting that one of the World Trade Center towers has been hit by a plane.” She adds, “This is all we know.” She also says experience has taught her that first reports are often wrong. Bush replies, “Thank you, Captain” as he continues making his way toward the school’s entrance and then says, “Keep me informed.” Loewer is “the first person to inform President Bush that terrorism had struck New York City,” according to the Associated Press. [Associated Press, 11/26/2001; Springfield News-Sun, 9/9/2011; Bohn, 2015, pp. 214; Priess, 2016, pp. 240] However, some accounts will claim that either Karl Rove, Bush’s senior adviser, or Card is the first person to tell the president a plane has crashed into the WTC (see (Shortly After 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 41-42; Rove, 2010, pp. 249-250; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] After passing on the news about the crash, Loewer goes to the holding room next to the classroom where Bush is going to listen to some children reading. There, she will learn about Flight 175 crashing into the WTC when the attack occurs, at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Bohn, 2015, pp. 214; Priess, 2016, pp. 240-241]

Entity Tags: Deborah Loewer, George W. Bush, Andrew Card

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Karl Rove, Andrew Card, and Dan Bartlett.
Karl Rove, Andrew Card, and Dan Bartlett. [Source: White House, US Office Pristina, Kosovo, White House]President Bush is told that a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center for the first time by Karl Rove, his senior adviser, according to some accounts, although other accounts will state that he is first alerted to the crash by another member of his staff. Bush has just arrived at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, where he is going to attend a children’s reading event (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 41-42; Bush, 2010, pp. 126; Rove, 2010, pp. 249-250; Priess, 2016, pp. 240; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016]
Rove Tells Bush about the Crash - During the drive to the school, several members of his staff were informed about the crash at the WTC (see (Between 8:48 a.m. and 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [White House, 8/12/2002; Dayton Daily News, 8/17/2003] Rove received a call alerting him to what had happened as he was arriving at the school (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). He will later recall that he then walks over to Bush, who is “with Secretary of Education Rod Paige, shaking hands with staff and teachers outside the school,” and tells him about the crash. [New Yorker, 9/25/2001; Rove, 2010, pp. 249-250; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who arrived at the school around the time the president did, will give a similar account, writing that while Bush is shaking “hands with the teachers and staff who had lined up to greet him,” Rove “stepped beside the president and told him about the plane” hitting the WTC. [Fleischer, 2005, pp. 138-139]
Bush Thinks the Crash Was 'a Terrible Accident' - Rove tells Bush the crash appears to have been an accident involving a small, twin-engine plane. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002] Bush nods his head, gives “a quizzical look,” and says, “Get more details,” Rove will describe. [Rove, 2010, pp. 250] The president’s initial thoughts in response to the news are: “How could the [pilot] have gotten so off course to hit the towers? What a terrible accident that is.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 42; Washington Times, 10/7/2002] He says: “This is pilot error. It’s unbelievable that somebody would do this.” He confers with Andrew Card, his chief of staff, and says the plane’s pilot “must have had a heart attack.” [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
Someone Else First Gives Bush the News, Other Accounts Will State - Rove will claim that he “was the first to tell [Bush] the news” about the crash. [Rove, 2010, pp. 250] However, according to other accounts, Bush is first told about the crash by some other member of the White House staff. For example, Navy Captain Deborah Loewer, director of the White House Situation Room, will say she was the first person to inform Bush about it, running up to his limousine and giving him the news as soon as he arrived at the school (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 11/26/2001; Dayton Daily News, 8/17/2003; Priess, 2016, pp. 240] And in 2002, Bush will tell journalist and author Bill Sammon that he was first told about the crash by Card. He will say that as he was heading into the school, while Blake Gottesman, his personal aide, was giving him some final instructions in preparation for the reading event, Card said to him, “By the way, an aircraft flew into the World Trade Center.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 41-42; Washington Times, 10/7/2002] But on other occasions, Bush will state that he was first told about the crash by Rove. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 126] Bush is also told about the crash, after he arrives at the school, by Dan Bartlett, his communications director, according to some accounts. In response to the news, Bartlett will say, Bush asks, “Was it bad weather [that caused the crash]?” [White House, 8/12/2002; Draper, 2007, pp. 135] After learning about the crash, Bush will go to a classroom from where he will talk on the phone with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who is at the White House, and discuss what has happened with her (see (Shortly Before 9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Times, 10/7/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 126-127]

Entity Tags: Deborah Loewer, Ari Fleischer, Blake Gottesman, Dan Bartlett, Andrew Card, George W. Bush, Karl C. Rove, Rod Paige

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

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

Andrew Card speaks to President Bush and tells him of the second World Trade Center crash.Andrew Card speaks to President Bush and tells him of the second World Trade Center crash. [Source: Agence France-Presse]Andrew Card, President Bush’s chief of staff, enters the classroom where Bush is participating in a reading demonstration, and tells him about the second crash at the World Trade Center and that America is under attack. [ABC News, 9/11/2002; NBC News, 9/10/2009; BBC, 9/9/2011] Bush learned about the first hijacked plane crashing into the WTC when he arrived at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, shortly before 9:00 a.m. (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Shortly After 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 11/26/2001; Rove, 2010, pp. 249-250] He decided, though, to continue with the scheduled event at the school (see (9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 8/25/2002] Card was told about the second crash at the WTC by Deborah Loewer, director of the White House Situation Room, while he was in the “staff hold,” a room adjacent to the classroom where the reading demonstration is taking place (see Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Dayton Daily News, 3/16/2013; Priess, 2016, pp. 240-241] He decided that he needed to tell the president what had happened and went to pass on the news to Bush. [NBC News, 9/10/2009; BBC, 9/9/2011]
Bush Is Told, 'America Is under Attack' - In the classroom, the children have just finished a spelling and pronunciation drill, and are reaching for their textbooks for the second part of the reading demonstration. Card, who was waiting at the door, takes advantage of the lull. He walks across the room toward Bush, leans down, and whispers in the president’s ear: “A second plane hit the second tower. America is under attack.” He then takes a couple of steps back so the president is unable to ask him any questions. [Washington Times, 10/7/2002; Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004 pdf file; Bohn, 2015, pp. 214; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] “There was no time for discussion or anything,” Bush will later comment. Card then takes up a position at the side of the room, next to Florida Lieutenant Governor Frank Brogan. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 83-84] Card will explain why he gives such a brief message to Bush about the second crash, saying: “I knew that this was not the place to stand and have a conversation with the president. I just wanted to convey the situation to the president in stark reality and inviting him, then, to find the best chance to excuse himself from the classroom.” [White House, 8/12/2002]
Bush Feels 'Outrage' but Continues with the Event - Bush will recall how he feels after hearing Card’s message, writing: “My first reaction was outrage. Someone had dared attack America. They were going to pay.” [Bush, 2010, pp. 127] “An expression of grim sobriety spread across the president’s face” after Card speaks to him, journalist and author Bill Sammon will describe. “He raised his chin and nodded almost imperceptibly to signal that he got the message. His eyes darted nervously around the room, as if he didn’t know quite where to focus them.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 84] However, even though it is now clear that America is under attack, the Secret Service takes no action to get Bush out of the classroom. “[N]o agents were there to surround the president and remove him instantly,” author Philip Melanson will note. [Melanson, 2005, pp. 330-331] Instead, perhaps 15 or 30 seconds after Card speaks to him, Bush picks up his copy of the textbook and continues listening to the children reading. [Tampa Tribune, 9/1/2002]
Bush Will Be Criticized for Continuing with the Event - Intelligence expert and author James Bamford will criticize Bush for his lack of response to Card’s devastating information, writing: “[H]aving just been told that the country was under attack, the commander in chief appeared uninterested in further details. He never asked if there had been any additional threats, where the attacks were coming from, how to best protect the country from further attacks, or what was the current status of NORAD or the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Nor did he call for an immediate return to Washington. Instead, in the middle of a modern-day Pearl Harbor, he simply turned back to the matter at hand: the day’s photo op.” [Bamford, 2002, pp. 633] Bush, though, will explain his lack of response to the 9/11 Commission, telling it that “his instinct was to project calm, not to have the country see an excited reaction at a moment of crisis.” He will say that he “felt he should project strength and calm until he could better understand what was happening.”
Bush Remains in the Classroom for Several More Minutes - Card tells Bush about the second crash at 9:05 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission Report. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 38] But ABC News reporter Ann Compton, who is in the classroom watching the reading demonstration, recognizes that something serious has happened when she sees Card interrupting the event and makes a note of the time, which her watch shows as 9:07 a.m. [ABC News, 9/11/2002] Bush will stay in the classroom for at least seven minutes after Card informs him of the second crash (see (9:08 a.m.-9:13 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (9:13 a.m.-9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Andrew Card, Ann Compton, James Bamford, US Secret Service, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Ari Fleischer.Ari Fleischer. [Source: Publicity photo]White House press secretary Ari Fleischer holds up a message instructing President Bush to not say anything yet about the terrorist attacks in New York after Bush is informed about the second crash at the World Trade Center in the middle of a public event. [Washington Times, 10/7/2002; Fleischer, 2005, pp. 139-140] Bush has been listening to a reading demonstration at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida. [ABC News, 9/11/2002; Washington Times, 10/8/2002]
Fleischer Received a Pager Message about the Second Crash - Fleischer, who is at the back of the classroom where the demonstration is taking place, learned about the second crash when he received a message on his pager alerting him to it. The message, which was sent by a colleague in Washington, DC, stated simply, “Second tower hit.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 84; White House, 8/6/2002; Sioux City Journal, 10/5/2009] “Immediately [after reading the message] I thought: ‘This must be terrorism. There cannot be any other explanation,’” Fleischer will later recall. He instructed the president’s advance team to get members of the press out of the room as soon as the reading demonstration ended, so they wouldn’t ask Bush about the events in New York before the president was told a second plane had hit the WTC. He started writing a message for the president on the back of his legal pad. But then Andrew Card, Bush’s chief of staff, came into the room, and told the president a second plane had crashed into the WTC and America was under attack (see (9:07 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Bush Sees Fleischer's Message - Fleischer now moves in front of the president, with his back to the members of the press in the room, and holds up his pad so Bush can see the message on it. [White House, 8/6/2002; White House, 8/8/2002; Fleischer, 2005, pp. 139-140] Bush notices Fleischer trying to catch his attention and then reads the message, written in large block letters, which states: “DON’T SAY ANYTHING YET.” The message means, “Fleischer didn’t want him talking to the press about the World Trade Center,” according to journalist and author Bill Sammon. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 86-87; Washington Times, 10/7/2002] “Until he could get a better briefing, I didn’t think it would be wise for him to address what surely now was a nation riveted to television sets, eager for news,” Fleischer will comment. [Fleischer, 2005, pp. 140] “I thought the most important thing was… to ascertain all the information, all the facts, before speaking,” he will say. [White House, 8/8/2002] Regarding Fleischer’s message, Bush will comment that he “didn’t plan to” say anything yet. “I had settled on a plan of action,” he will write, adding, “When the lesson ended, I would leave the classroom calmly, gather the facts, and speak to the nation.” [Bush, 2010, pp. 127] After seeing Fleischer’s message, Bush will continue listening to the children reading for several minutes, despite now being aware that America is under attack (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]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Ari Fleischer

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

President Bush continues to read.President Bush continues to read. [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: Gordon Johndroe, Gwendolyn Tosé-Rigell, Sandra Kay Daniels, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Bush in a holding room before giving his speech. Communications director Dan Bartlett points to the TV, and the clock reads 9:25. 
Bush in a holding room before giving his speech. Communications director Dan Bartlett points to the TV, and the clock reads 9:25. [Source: White House]After leaving the Booker Elementary School classroom, President Bush returns to an adjacent holding room where he is briefed by his staff, and gets his first look at the footage of the burning World Trade Center on a television that has been set up there. He instructs his press secretary, Ari Fleischer, to take notes to create an accurate accounting of events. According to some accounts, he speaks on the phone with Vice President Dick Cheney who is at the White House, and they both agree that terrorists are probably behind the attacks. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 92-93; Daily Mail, 9/8/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39] But White House adviser Karl Rove, who is also in the holding room, will later tell NBC News that Bush is unable to reach Cheney because the vice president is being moved from his office to the White House bunker at this time. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] The president speaks with New York Governor George Pataki and FBI Director Robert Mueller. Bush learns from Mueller that the planes that hit the WTC were commercial American aircraft, and at least one of them had apparently been hijacked after leaving Boston. According to some accounts, Bush also speaks with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice around this time. However, Rice herself will later suggest otherwise (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 93-94; Daily Mail, 9/8/2002; St. Petersburg Times, 9/8/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39] Fleischer and White House communications director Dan Bartlett quickly draft a statement for the president to deliver in the school’s library, which Bush rewords, scribbling three sheets of notes. Bush will deliver this at 9:30 a.m. (see 9:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). While he works on the statement, Bush briefly glances at the unfolding horror on the television. Turning to his aides in the room, he declares, “We’re at war.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 94; Albuquerque Tribune, 9/10/2002] According to the 9/11 Commission, the focus at the present time is on the president’s statement to the nation, and the only decision made by Bush’s traveling party is to return to Washington. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39] Bush will later claim that he makes no major decisions in response to the crisis until after Air Force One takes off at around 9:55 a.m. (see (Shortly After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]

Entity Tags: George E. Pataki, Dan Bartlett, Condoleezza Rice, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, George W. Bush, Ari Fleischer, Robert S. Mueller III, Karl C. Rove

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

President Bush begins speaking at 9:30 a.m. in the library of Booker Elementary School. 
President Bush begins speaking at 9:30 a.m. in the library of Booker Elementary School. [Source: Booker Elementary website] (click image to enlarge)Still inside Booker Elementary School, President Bush gives a brief speech in front of about 200 students, plus many teachers and reporters. [Daily Mail, 9/8/2002] He says: “Today we’ve had a national tragedy. Two airplanes have crashed into the World Trade Center in an apparent terrorist attack on our country.” [White House, 9/11/2001] The talk occurs at exactly the time and place stated in his publicly announced advance schedule—making Bush a possible terrorist target. [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001; New York Times, 9/12/2001; MSNBC, 9/22/2001]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

On the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the story of what President Bush did on that day is significantly rewritten. In actual fact, when Chief of Staff Andrew Card told Bush about the second plane crash into the WTC, Bush continued to sit in a Florida elementary school classroom and hear a story about a pet goat for at least seven more minutes (see (9:08 a.m.-9:13 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (9:07 a.m.) September 11, 2001), as video footage later broadcast in the 2004 movie Fahrenheit 9/11 (see June 25, 2004) shows. But one year later, Card claims that after he told Bush about the second WTC crash, “it was only a matter of seconds” before Bush “excused himself very politely to the teacher and to the students, and he left the Florida classroom.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/11/2002] In a different account, Card says, “Not that many seconds later the president excused himself from the classroom.” [Newsweek, 9/9/2002] An interview with the classroom teacher states that Bush left the class even before the second WTC crash: “The president bolted right out of here and told me: ‘Take over’.” When the second WTC crash occurred, she claims her students were watching television in a nearby media room. [New York Post, 9/12/2002]

Entity Tags: Andrew Card, World Trade Center, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline, Domestic Propaganda

Fahrenheit 9/11 movie poster.
Fahrenheit 9/11 movie poster. [Source: Lions Gate Films]Fahrenheit 9/11, a film by well-known documentarian and author Michael Moore, is released in the US. Amongst other things, this film reveals connections between the Bush family and prominent Saudis including the bin Laden family. [New York Times, 5/6/2004; New York Times, 5/17/2004; Toronto Star, 6/13/2004] It reviews evidence the White House helped members of Osama bin Laden’s family and other Saudis fly out of the US in the days soon after 9/11. [New York Times, 5/17/2004; Toronto Star, 6/13/2004; New York Times, 6/18/2004; Los Angeles Times, 6/23/2004; Newsweek, 6/30/2004] It introduces to the mainstream damning footage of President Bush continuing with a photo-op for seven minutes (see (9:07 a.m.) September 11, 2001) after being told of the second plane hitting the WTC on 9/11. [New York Times, 6/18/2004; Washington Post, 6/19/2004; Newsweek, 6/20/2004; Los Angeles Times, 6/23/2004] Disney refused to let its Miramax division distribute the movie in the United States, supposedly because the film was thought too partisan. [New York Times, 5/6/2004; Guardian, 6/2/2004; Los Angeles Times, 6/11/2004; Agence France-Presse, 6/23/2004] The film won the top award at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival—the first documentary to do so in nearly 50 years. [BBC, 5/24/2004; Guardian, 5/24/2004; Agence France-Presse, 6/23/2004] It is generally very well received, with most US newspapers rating it favorably. [Agence France-Presse, 6/23/2004; Editor & Publisher, 6/27/2004] The film is an instant hit and is seen by tens of millions. [Associated Press, 6/27/2004; BBC, 6/28/2004; Associated Press, 6/28/2004; CBS News, 6/28/2004] There are some criticisms that it distorts certain facts, such as exaggerating the possible significance of Bush and bin Laden family connections, and gripes about a $1.4 billion number representing the money flowing from Saudi companies to the Bush family. However, the New York Times claims that the public record corroborates the film’s main assertions. [New York Times, 5/17/2004; New York Times, 6/18/2004; Newsweek, 6/30/2004] Shortly before the film’s release, the conservative organization Citizens United tried to block the film’s distribution (see June 27, 2004). The effort failed (see August 6, 2004).

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Bin Laden Family, Michael Moore, Osama bin Laden, Citizens United, Walt Disney Company, Miramax

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline, Domestic Propaganda, 2004 Elections

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