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9:41 a.m. September 11, 2001: First Lady and Senators Appear before Reporters, Comment on Attacks

Laura Bush with Senators Edward Kennedy and Judd Gregg.Laura Bush with Senators Edward Kennedy and Judd Gregg. [Source: CNN]First Lady Laura Bush, Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), and Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) appear before reporters and television cameras to announce that a planned Senate education committee hearing has been postponed, and to comment on the terrorist attacks in New York. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/11/2001; Bush, 2010, pp. 199] Bush was scheduled to testify before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, which Kennedy chairs, at 10:00 a.m. [USA Today, 9/10/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001] She now goes with Kennedy and Gregg to the Caucus Room in the Russell Senate Office Building, to tell reporters there that the hearing has been called off. [Time, 12/31/2001; Bush, 2010, pp. 199] The beginning of their appearance is shown live on CNN.
Hearing Has Been Postponed, Not Canceled - Kennedy starts by emphasizing that today’s hearing has been postponed, rather than canceled, and then says, “We are not going to see the business of America deferred because of terrorism, whether it’s in education or another area of public policy.” [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/11/2001]
First Lady Becomes 'Comforter in Chief' - After Kennedy asks her if she would like to say anything, Bush says to the reporters: “Our hearts and our prayers go out to the victims of this act of terrorism and… our support goes to the rescue workers. And all of our prayers are with everyone there right now.” Then, as she and the senators turn to leave, Laurence McQuillan of USA Today says to her: “Children are kind of struck by all this. Is there a message you could tell to the nation’s…” Before he can finish the sentence, Bush replies, “Parents need to reassure their children everywhere in our country that they’re safe.” [CNN, 9/11/2002; Gerhart, 2004, pp. 163; Bush, 2010, pp. 199] With these words, journalist and author Ronald Kessler will later write, Bush “became the comforter in chief, calmly reassuring the nation and dispensing advice on how parents should deal with the tragedy.” [Kessler, 2006, pp. 136] Noelia Rodriguez, the first lady’s press secretary, will later comment that Bush’s response to McQuillan is “what people remember her for that day.” [National Journal, 8/31/2002] As Bush, Kennedy, and Gregg are leaving the room, Bush’s advance man will receive a call informing him of the attack at the Pentagon (see (9:45 a.m.-9:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Bush, 2010, pp. 200]

Entity Tags: Judd Gregg, Larry McQuillan, Edward M. (“Ted”) Kennedy, Laura Bush, Noelia Rodriguez

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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