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9:16 a.m.-9:40 a.m. September 11, 2001: First Lady Arrives at Senate Office Building, Spends Time with Senators Kennedy and Gregg

The Russell Senate Office Building.The Russell Senate Office Building. [Source: Senate Photography Studio]Laura Bush, the president’s wife, spends time in the office of Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) after arriving at the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill, where she was originally scheduled to testify before the Senate education committee. [Bush, 2010, pp. 197-199] Bush was set to appear before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, which Kennedy chairs, at 10:00 a.m., to talk about early childhood education. [USA Today, 9/10/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001; CNN, 9/11/2002]
First Lady Arrives at Senate Building - She arrives at the Russell Senate Office Building at 9:16 a.m. [National Journal, 8/31/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 198] Her Secret Service agents informed her of the first crash at the World Trade Center as she was getting into her limousine for the drive from the White House to Capitol Hill (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and told her about the second crash a couple of minutes before she arrives at the Russell Office Building (see (9:14 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/11/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 197-198] Kennedy, who has been informed of the attacks in New York, goes to greet Bush when she arrives. [CNN, 9/11/2002; Kennedy, 2009, pp. 492]
First Lady and Kennedy Discuss 'Mundane Things' - After Kennedy meets Bush, the two agree immediately to postpone the Senate hearing. [Us Weekly, 10/15/2001; Andersen, 2002, pp. 4] Instead of going to the hearing room, they go to Kennedy’s office, accompanied by members of Bush’s staff. [National Journal, 8/31/2002; Kessler, 2006, pp. 135] A television is on in the corner of the room, showing the coverage of the burning WTC towers. However, rather than focusing on the attacks in New York, Kennedy takes Bush on a tour of his office, pointing out various pictures, furniture, and pieces of memorabilia. He also presents her with a print of a painting he has done. [Bush, 2010, pp. 198] Bush will later recall that she and Kennedy talk about “mundane things,” such as the Capitol and the offices there. [CNN, 9/11/2002; Gerhart, 2004, pp. 162]
Senator Gregg Joins First Lady and Kennedy - After a time, they are joined by Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH), who is on the education committee and is a Bush family friend. While Gregg and Bush sit on couches in the office, Bush will recall, Kennedy continues “chatting about anything other than the horrific images unfolding on the tiny screen across the room.” Gregg will say: “I think Senator Kennedy was trying to distract everybody, keep us thinking about other things, maybe. But we were talking about some other items [besides the terrorist attacks], actually.” However, Bush keeps glancing at the television to see the coverage of the attacks. [CNN, 9/11/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 198-199]
Secret Service Agents 'Frantically' Seek Details of Attacks - While the first lady is in Kennedy’s office, her Secret Service agents and senior staff “frantically worked their earpieces and cell phones to get a handle on the unfolding attacks,” according to Us Weekly magazine. Although those in the room aren’t catching everything about the attacks that is being shown on television, Bush will recall that they “knew what was happening because people kept coming in.” [Us Weekly, 10/15/2001] However, members of Bush’s staff have difficulty contacting others. Noelia Rodriguez, the first lady’s press secretary, will say, “Nobody could get a cell [phone call] to get through, and we took turns using the office phone.” [National Journal, 8/31/2002]
First Lady Works on Public Statement - The first lady and those with her watch President Bush delivering a short statement to the nation from the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, at 9:30 a.m. (see 9:30 a.m. September 11, 2001) on a small television on the desk of Kennedy’s receptionist. [White House, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001; Bush, 2010, pp. 199] Although Jim Manley, Kennedy’s spokesman, initially tells reporters that the senators and the first lady will not be making any statements to the press, Kennedy subsequently decides they should. [Gerhart, 2004, pp. 161] Therefore, after watching the president’s statement, the first lady goes to a private room with Rodriguez and they start writing down what she will say. [National Journal, 8/31/2002] Kennedy, Gregg, and Bush will appear before the press at around 9:41 a.m. (see 9:41 a.m. September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/11/2001; Bush, 2010, pp. 199]

Entity Tags: Judd Gregg, Jim Manley, Laura Bush, Edward M. (“Ted”) Kennedy, Noelia Rodriguez, US Secret Service

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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