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Shortly Before 9:45 a.m. September 11, 2001: White House Staffers Ordered to Go to Basement Dining Room

The White House mess.The White House mess. [Source: Unknown]People at the White House are ordered to go to the “mess,” the senior staff dining room. David Kuo, a special assistant to the president, and John Bridgeland, the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, will later recall being ordered to go downstairs to the mess by armed Secret Service agents. Meanwhile, Anita McBride, the acting director of White House personnel, is instructed by members of the Secret Service to “go through West Wing offices and tell everyone to ‘get out’ and stay put” in the mess. [Kuo, 2006, pp. 185; Politico, 9/9/2011; Bridgeland, 2012, pp. 3] Mary Matalin, a counselor to Vice President Dick Cheney, will recall, “Everyone still remaining in the West Wing was shepherded to the White House mess, where we were to await further instructions.” [Carville and Matalin, 2014, pp. 138]
Mess Is a 'Tiny, Unsecure' Facility - The White House mess is an exclusive dining facility run by the US Navy, located in the basement of the West Wing, just under the Oval Office. [All Hands, 12/1/2001; National Review, 10/8/2013] Bridgeland will recall thinking “how odd it was” for White House staffers to all be evacuated to this “tiny, unsecure” facility. [Bridgeland, 2012, pp. 4] People in the mess are watching television or just waiting. [White House, 8/29/2002] Kuo will describe: “All the tables had been tossed onto their sides to make room for as many people as possible. Fifty people stood there, shocked, quiet, confused.” [Kuo, 2006, pp. 185]
People Ordered to the Mess after the Pentagon Attack - The exact time at which staffers are ordered to go to the mess is unclear. Matalin will recall being told to go there “moments” after she sees Cheney being evacuated from his office, which would be some time shortly after 9:36 a.m. (see (9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [National Review, 9/8/2011; Carville and Matalin, 2014, pp. 137-138] Bridgeland and Kuo will recall being ordered to go there shortly after they learn the Pentagon has been hit, which would be some time after 9:37 a.m., when the Pentagon attack occurred (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Kuo, 2006, pp. 184-185; Bridgeland, 2012, pp. 3]
People in the Mess Ordered to Leave the Building - People will only spend a short time in the mess before they are told to get out of the building. The Secret Service will reportedly order them to evacuate the White House at 9:45 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 2001 pdf file; Washington Post, 1/27/2002] Bridgeland will describe: “[A]n alarmed police officer came into the White House mess and instructed us to leave. Another officer outside was receiving the latest communications by wire (apparently alerted that United Airlines Flight 93 was headed toward the White House or US Capitol building) and commanded us, ‘Take off your shoes and run as fast as you can.’” [Bridgeland, 2012, pp. 4] Matalin will recall that the order she hears, which is delivered “in a weirdly calm manner,” is: “Run for your lives. A plane is going to hit the White House.” [Carville and Matalin, 2014, pp. 138]

Entity Tags: Anita McBride, John Bridgeland, Mary Matalin, David Kuo, US Secret Service

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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