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(9:16 a.m.-9:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Secret Service Does Not Evacuate President Bush from the School, despite Its Safety Concerns

Frank Brogan.Frank Brogan. [Source: Publicity photo]The Secret Service allows President Bush to stay at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, after a reading demonstration he was participating in has ended, even though he could be in danger at the school. [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] Bush has just left the classroom where the reading demonstration was held and entered a holding room next to it. There, he talks on the phone with officials in Washington, DC, and works on a statement to the nation that he wants to deliver before leaving the school (see (9:16 a.m.-9:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Members of his staff in the holding room apparently have little information about the terrorist attacks beyond what has been reported on television. They are in contact with the White House Situation Room but not the Pentagon and, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, “No one in the traveling party had any information during this time that other aircraft were hijacked or missing.” [Washington Times, 10/7/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 38-39] All the same, Secret Service agents and other personnel with the president are concerned that Bush could be in danger at the school, and some of them are worried that terrorists might attack the place (see (9:04 a.m.-9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Studies in Intelligence, 9/2006 pdf file; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016]
Bush's Lead Agent Wants to Evacuate the President - Edward Marinzel, the head of Bush’s Secret Service detail, is “eager to get the president out of the school, to Air Force One, and airborne,” according to Karl Rove, Bush’s senior adviser. [Rove, 2010, pp. 251] He therefore approaches Bush and tells him, “We need to get you to Air Force One and get you airborne.” [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] However, his concern does not result in Bush being evacuated from the school right away. The Secret Service will later tell the 9/11 Commission that although its agents “were anxious to move the president to a safer location” while he was in the holding room, they “did not think it imperative for him to run out the door.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39]
Chief of Staff Wants Bush to Give His Speech before Leaving - Andrew Card, Bush’s chief of staff, suggests that Bush should be allowed to give his speech to the nation from the school before leaving. He says that “we have a whole auditorium full, waiting for the next event”—meaning Bush’s speech—and there is “no imminent threat there in Sarasota,” according to Dave Wilkinson, assistant special agent in charge of the presidential protection division. The Secret Service therefore accepts a compromise and agrees that Bush can give his speech before leaving. [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016]
Bush Should Be Taken to the 'Closest Secure Location' - Author Philip Melanson, an expert on the Secret Service, will criticize Bush’s Secret Service detail for failing to get the president away from the school immediately after the second hijacked plane crashed into the World Trade Center, at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). “With an unfolding terrorist attack, the procedure should have been to get the president to the closest secure location as quickly as possible, which clearly is not a school,” he will state. [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004] Bush himself will comment on the situation while he is in the holding room, saying, “One thing for certain: I needed to get out of where I was.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 93]
Bush Refuses to Leave - And yet the president refuses to leave the school at this time when he is urged to do so, according to Frank Brogan, lieutenant governor of Florida, who is in the holding room with him. “The Secret Service tried to get the president to return to Air Force One immediately,” Brogan will state, “but he refused, saying he was committed to staying on the ground long enough to write a statement about what was happening, read it to the nation, and lead a moment of silence for the victims.” [University Press, 9/18/2003] Bush “was courageously insistent about remaining on the ground to make a statement to the people of America,” Brogan will comment. [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 9/11/2011] Bush will give his speech to the nation, which will be broadcast live on television, from the school library at 9:30 a.m. (see 9:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). [White House, 9/11/2001; Bohn, 2015, pp. 215] He will finally leave the school at around 9:35 a.m. (see (9:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39]

Entity Tags: Edward Marinzel, Frank Brogan, George W. Bush, US Secret Service, Andrew Card, Karl C. Rove, Dave Wilkinson, Philip Melanson

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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