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(9:13 a.m.-9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001: President Bush Takes His Time Leaving the Reading Demonstration

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

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