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Profile: Ron Sprinkle
Ron Sprinkle was a participant or observer in the following events:
Margaret Spellings. [Source: Harvard University]Laura Bush, the president’s wife, learns of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center while she is leaving the White House, on her way to a Senate hearing on Capitol Hill, but thinks the crash was an accident. [Us Weekly, 10/15/2001; Bush, 2010, pp. 197-198] Bush is set to appear before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, to plead for more federal funding of early childhood education. [CNN, 9/12/2001; Andersen, 2002, pp. 2] She is scheduled to arrive at the Russell Senate Office Building, located just north of the Capitol building, at 9:15 a.m. and to appear at the hearing there at 10:00 a.m. [USA Today, 9/10/2001; Bush, 2010, pp. 197]
Secret Service Agent Tells First Lady of Crash - Members of the White House press corps who will be going to Capitol Hill with the first lady have been watching coverage of the crash in New York on television. However, when she is escorted out of the White House by Gary Walters, the chief usher, Bush is unaware of what has happened. But then, as she is getting into her limousine, Ron Sprinkle, the head of her Secret Service detail, leans over and whispers in her ear that he has just been informed that a plane has hit the WTC. [National Journal, 8/31/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 197]
First Lady Thinks Crash Is an Accident - Bush speculates about what could have happened with Andi Ball, her chief of staff, and Margaret Spellings, the White House domestic policy adviser, who are with her at this time. [Kessler, 2006, pp. 135; Bush, 2010, pp. 197-198] Bush does not think the crash was due to terrorism. “Of course, at that time we thought it was just some weird freak accident,” she will later recall. [Us Weekly, 10/15/2001; Gerhart, 2004, pp. 162]
Motorcade Subsequently Heads for Capitol Hill - The exact time when Sprinkle informs Bush of the crash is unclear. According to Walters, it happens “at 8:55.” [National Journal, 8/31/2002] Us Weekly magazine will place the incident at “[j]ust before 9 a.m.” [Us Weekly, 10/15/2001] But Bush will write that she is told of the crash “a few minutes after 9:00 a.m.” [Bush, 2010, pp. 197] Bush’s limousine and motorcade will leave the White House at 9:07 a.m., several minutes after the second plane hits the WTC, according to Noelia Rodriguez, the first lady’s press secretary (see (9:07 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [National Journal, 8/31/2002] Bush will learn of the second crash, and realize this is a terrorist attack, shortly before arriving at the Russell Office Building (see (9:14 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/11/2002; Gerhart, 2004, pp. 162; Bush, 2010, pp. 198]
First Lady's Testimony before Congress Expected to Be 'Big News' - Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), who chairs the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, invited Bush to appear before his committee today. [USA Today, 9/10/2001; Gerhart, 2004, pp. 160] Bush is set to become only the fourth first lady to testify before Congress. [USA Today, 9/6/2001; Us Weekly, 10/15/2001] Rodriguez will recall that before receiving the news of the crash in New York, with Bush’s planned appearance at the hearing ahead, “We expected it to be a big news day for us.” Kennedy will say, “There was a lot of anticipation about [Bush’s] presence, a lot of the excitement.” [CNN, 9/11/2002] The hearing will be canceled as a result of the attacks in New York. [CNN, 9/12/2001]
The Russell Senate Office Building Caucus Room. [Source: Architect of the Capitol]First Lady Laura Bush and those accompanying her head toward the office of Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) after they learn of the attack on the Pentagon and Bush’s Secret Service agents instruct them to go to the basement of the building they are in. [CNN, 9/11/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 200] Bush has just appeared before reporters in the Caucus Room of the Russell Senate Office Building, on Capitol Hill, alongside Gregg and Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) (see 9:41 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Advance Man Told of Pentagon Attack - As Bush and the senators are walking out of the Caucus Room, John Meyers, the first lady’s advance man, receives a call on his cell phone. The caller, a friend of his, says that “CNN was reporting that an airplane had crashed into the Pentagon,” Bush will later write. [Time, 12/31/2001; Bush, 2010, pp. 199-200]
Secret Service Says First Lady and Staff Cannot Leave Yet - Before going to the Caucus Room, Bush spent time in Kennedy’s office (see 9:16 a.m.-9:40 a.m. September 11, 2001). [National Journal, 8/31/2002; CNN, 9/11/2002] She now goes back there. Then, she will recall, she begins “moving quickly toward the stairs, to reach my car to return to the White House.” But suddenly, Ron Sprinkle, Bush’s lead Secret Service agent, turns toward the first lady and her staff and tells them they need to head immediately to the basement of the Russell Senate Office Building, Bush will recall. [Bush, 2010, pp. 200] Andi Ball, the first lady’s chief of staff, who is with Bush at this time, will give a slightly different account. She will say that as Bush and her staff are walking down the corridor, on their way to the cars that will take them to the White House, Bush’s Secret Service agents tell them, “[W]e can’t go right now.” The agents say they all “need to go back and wait a few minutes.” Ball will add: “Our agents thought another plane was coming toward Washington. The Capitol was being evacuated.” [Kessler, 2006, pp. 136] (The Russell Senate Office Building and the nearby Capitol building are evacuated at 9:48 a.m., apparently due to concerns that a plane is heading toward Capitol Hill (see 9:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Associated Press, 8/21/2002; CNN, 9/11/2006] )
First Lady and Entourage Go to Senator's Office - The group then takes off “at a run,” according to Bush. Gregg suggests they all go to his office, which is on a lower floor and is an interior room. Bush’s Secret Service agents then tell Meyers that they are waiting for the emergency response team to arrive. They say the team will take the first lady away but leave her staff behind. Overhearing this conversation, Bush turns back and says, “No, everyone is coming.” Bush and her entourage then reach Gregg’s office, where they will remain until the Secret Service takes them away to a “secure location” at around 10:10 a.m. (see (9:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001, (Shortly After 10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001, and (10:10 a.m.-10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [National Journal, 8/31/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 200]
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