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(9:07 a.m.) September 11, 2001: First Lady Begins Journey from White House to Capitol Hill, Unaware of Second Crash at WTC

Laura Bush, the president’s wife, leaves the White House in her limousine, on her way to Capitol Hill where she is scheduled to testify before a Congressional committee, but she is unaware that a second plane has crashed into the World Trade Center. (Burleigh 10/15/2001; National Journal 8/31/2002; Bush 2010, pp. 198) Bush is set to appear before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, where she will talk about early childhood education. (McCaleb 9/12/2001; CNN 9/11/2002) She was informed of the first crash at the WTC by her lead Secret Service agent as she was getting into her limousine (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
First Lady Unaware of Second Crash - The limousine leaves the White House at 9:07 a.m., according to Noelia Rodriguez, the first lady’s press secretary. (National Journal 8/31/2002) The second aircraft, Flight 175, hit the WTC four minutes earlier (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 8) However, Bush and those with her in the limousine are unaware of this. (Bush 2010, pp. 197-198)
First Lady Thinks about Canceling Hearing - Nevertheless, Bush already thinks the Senate hearing she is on her way to should perhaps be canceled, because New York Senator Hillary Clinton is on the education committee and is therefore supposed to attend. Bush will comment, “Even after the first [crash], when I thought it was just an accident, I thought we probably should cancel, because Mrs. Clinton was on the committee and she’s from New York, and she’d probably want to rush home at that time.” (McQuillan 9/10/2001; Gerhart 2004, pp. 162) All the same, Bush continues with the two-mile journey from the White House to Capitol Hill. She will learn of the second crash, and realize this is a terrorist attack, shortly before arriving at the Russell Senate Office Building, where the hearing is set to take place (see (9:14 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Secret Service Allows Bush to Head to Event - Members of Bush’s Secret Service detail apparently raise no objection to Bush going ahead with her trip to Capitol Hill. (CNN 9/11/2002; Gerhart 2004, pp. 162; Bush 2010, pp. 198) The Secret Service is responsible for protecting the first lady, and she is considered to be one of the nation’s “most visible targets.” (US Department of the Treasury 5/8/2001; Office of Management and Budget 7/2001, pp. 82 pdf file) The agency’s mission includes keeping her “in sight and out of harm’s way,” according to a book about the Secret Service by author Philip Melanson. (Melanson 2002, pp. 273) And, as one of the Secret Service’s “permanent protectees,” the first lady, like the president, has a detail of special agents assigned to her. (United States Secret Service 2002) Bush currently travels with four Secret Service agents and two Secret Service cars. (Kessler 2006, pp. 136; Kessler 2009, pp. 181) However, the Secret Service will only take her away from Capitol Hill to a “secure location”—actually the agency’s headquarters—after the terrorist attacks have ended (see (10:10 a.m.-10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Associated Press 9/11/2001; National Journal 8/31/2002; Kessler 2006, pp. 136)


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