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Emma E. Booker Elementary School is an elementary school in Sarasota, Florida which opened in the fall of 1989. It is named for Emma E. Booker, an African-American educator who founded the first black school in Sarasota County, Florida.
Visit from President BushEdit
The school received international attention following a visit by United States President George W. Bush on the morning of September 11, 2001. It was at the school that Bush learned of the second plane crashing into the World Trade Center, and where he made his first public comments about the September 11 attacks.
Report of AttacksEdit
The first plane crash at the World Trade Center happened about ten minutes before the president arrived at the school. A press pool photographer heard a radio message that Ari Fleischer would be needed to answer questions about a "crash" and that there was a call on hold from Condoleezza Rice. Bush entered the second-grade classroom of Sandra Kay Daniels where he introduced the class to Education Secretary Rod Paige and shook hands with Mrs. Daniels, then he and the teacher sat down facing the seated students to read The Pet Goat .
At about 9:05 AM White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card whispered into Bush's ear that a second plane had hit the World Trade Center. Bush appeared tense but continued to listen for several minutes while the children read in unison through the story, sometimes repeating lines to meet Mrs. Daniels' standards. The reading concluded with the phrase "more to come" and Bush asked the class, "What does that mean - 'more to come'?" After a student replied, he praised the students' reading skills and encouraged them to continue practicing, before he excused himself and left the room.
After Learning of AttacksEdit
Bush was scheduled for a short press conference in the school library after the classroom visit. This was delayed by several minutes. When Bush appeared, he announced "This is a difficult moment for America," and instead of the planned topic, addressed the country for several minutes about the plane crashes and the government's immediate response. He then left the school for Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport.
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Bush’s motorcade arrives at Booker Elementary School. [Source: Lions Gate Films] President Bush’s motorcade arrives at Booker Elementary School for a photo-op to promote his education policies. [NEW YORK TIMES, 9/16/2001; SARASOTA MAGAZINE, 9/19/2001; DAILY TELEGRAPH, 12/16/2001; SARASOTA HERALD-TRIBUNE, 9/10/2002; ALBUQUERQUE TRIBUNE, 9/10/2002; ABC NEWS, 9/11/2002; WASHINGTON TIMES, 10/7/2002] If he left the Colony Resort around 8:35 a.m. as reported, the timing of his arrival at 8:55 a.m. is consistent with the fact that the trip from the resort to the school is said to take 20 minutes. The Booker Elementary School is reportedly “well-equipped for the brief presidential visit. Police and Secret Service agents [are] on the roof, on horseback and in every hallway. The White House [has] installed 49 new phone lines for staffers and reporters.” [NEW YORK TIMES, 9/16/2001; ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 9/8/2002; MSNBC, 10/29/2002] Entity Tags: George W. Bush Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
(Between 8:55 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001: President Bush First Told About WTC Crash? Suggests AccidentEdit
Karl Rove, Andrew Card, and Dan Bartlett. [Source: White House, US Office Pristina, Kosovo, White House] President Bush’s motorcade has arrived at Booker Elementary School and Bush enters the school with his entourage. The beepers of politicians’ aides are going off with news of the first WTC crash as Bush arrives. According to one account, Bush learns of the crash when adviser Karl Rove takes Bush aside in a school corridor and tells him about the calamity. According to this account, Rove says the cause of the crash was unclear. Bush replies, “What a horrible accident!” Bush also suggests the pilot may have had a heart attack. This account is recalled by photographer Eric Draper, who was standing nearby at the time. [DAILY MAIL, 9/8/2002] Dan Bartlett, White House Communications Director, also says he is there when Bush is told: “[Bush] being a former pilot, had kind of the same reaction, going, was it bad weather? And I said no, apparently not.” [ABC NEWS, 9/11/2002] One account states that Rove tells Bush the WTC has been hit by a large commercial airliner. [DAILY TELEGRAPH, 12/16/2001] However, Bush later remembers Rove saying it appeared to be an accident involving a small, twin-engine plane. [WASHINGTON POST, 1/27/2002] In a third version of the story, Bush later recalls that he first learns of the crash from chief of Staff Andrew Card, who says, “‘Here’s what you’re going to be doing; you’re going to meet so-and-so, such-and-such.’ And Andy Card says, ‘By the way, an aircraft flew into the World Trade Center.’” [WASHINGTON TIMES, 10/7/2002] “From the demeanor of the president, grinning at the children, it appeared that the enormity of what he had been told was taking a while to sink in,” according to a reporter standing nearby at the time. [DAILY TELEGRAPH, 12/16/2001; DAILY MAIL, 9/8/2002] Entity Tags: Karl Rove, George W. Bush, Andrew Card, Dan Bartlett, Eric Draper Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
(8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001: President Bush Chats with Greeting Committee Instead of Taking Urgent Call from Rice
Adam Putnam. [Source: Congressional Pictorial Directory] At the Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, a small greeting committee has been waiting for the president to arrive. Among this group are two congressmen, Adam Putnam (R) and Dan Miller (R). A White House staffer has informed them that the president has an important call to take from Condoleezza Rice. According to Putnam, they were told, “When he arrives, and he’ll be here in a minute, he’s going to walk past you. He’s not being rude; he’s just got to take this phone call.” [GW HATCHET, 4/8/2002; ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 9/8/2002] President Bush reportedly is informed of the first WTC crash when he arrives at the school (see (Between 8:55 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Like others traveling in the president’s motorcade (see (Between 8:46 a.m. and 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001), Captain Deborah Loewer, the director of the White House Situation Room, learned of the crash during the journey. She runs up to the president, she later says, “[a]s soon as the motorcade stopped,” and informs him of it (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [DAYTON DAILY NEWS, 8/17/2003; SPRINGFIELD NEWS-SUN, 7/6/2006] Yet in spite of therefore likely already knowing of the crash, Bush seems in no hurry to take Rice’s call. Putnam later recalls, “Well, he comes up and does not go past us. He stops and talks with us, having a good chat with the teacher of the year.” (This is Edwina Oliver, who is also part of the greeting committee.) White House chief of staff Andrew Card says, “Mr. President. You have a phone call from National Security Adviser Rice you need to take.” According to Putnam, Bush “says OK. [But he] goes on talking with the teacher of the year. ‘I’ll be right there.’ Card comes back to him, grabs him by the arm and says, ‘Mr. President, you need to take this call right now.’” [SAMMON, 2002, PP. 43; GW HATCHET, 4/8/2002; ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 9/8/2002] The president then takes the call from Rice (see (9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Entity Tags: Andrew Card, Dan Miller, Condoleezza Rice, Adam Putnam, George W. Bush Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
(8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Situation Room Director Informs President Bush of WTC Crash Edit
Captain Deborah Loewer. [Source: Military Sealift Command] Captain Deborah Loewer, director of the White House Situation Room, is traveling in President Bush’s motorcade toward Booker Elementary School, when she learns of the first WTC crash from her deputy in the Situation Room at the White House. According to some reports, as soon as the motorcade reaches the school, Loewer runs from her car to Bush’s car, and informs Bush. [ASSOCIATED PRESS, 11/26/2001; CATHOLIC TELEGRAPH, 12/7/2001] Note that Bush maintains that he learns of the crash at a later time. Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Deborah Loewer Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
(After 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Serious Communications Problems Experienced in Washington Area, Affect Key Government Officials In the Washington, DC, area, members of the public, emergency responders, and government officials experience serious communications problems. Telephone and cell phone services around the capital remain unavailable to members of the public for most of the day. [VERTON, 2003, PP. 149]
Particular problems are experienced around the Pentagon. Reportedly, cellular and landline telephone communications there are “virtually unreliable or inaccessible during the first few hours of the response,” after it is hit at 9:37 (see After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [US DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, 7/2002, PP. C36]
Some senior government officials also experience communications difficulties:
CIA Director George Tenet has problems using his secure phone while heading from a Washington hotel back to CIA headquarters, located about eight miles outside Washington (see (8:55 a.m.-9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [INDEPENDENT, 11/6/2002; TENET, 2007, PP. 161-162] Secretary of State Colin Powell has to take a seven-hour flight from Peru, to get back to the capital. He later complains that, during this flight, “because of the communications problems that existed during that day, I couldn’t talk to anybody in Washington” (see (12:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [ABC NEWS, 9/11/2002] Between the time of the second WTC attack and about 9:45 a.m., Vice President Dick Cheney, who is at the White House, has problems reaching Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert at the US Capitol by secure telephone (see (9:04 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [DAILY HERALD (ARLINGTON HEIGHTS), 9/11/2002; HAYES, 2007, PP. 336-337] Even President Bush experiences difficulties communicating with Washington after leaving a school in Florida, and subsequently while flying on Air Force One (see (9:34 a.m.-11:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [CANADIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION, 9/10/2006]
A classified after-action report will later be produced, based on observations from a National Airborne Operations Center plane launched near Washington shortly before the time of the Pentagon attack (see (Shortly Before 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to one government official, the report indicates that the nation was “deaf, dumb, and blind” for much of the day. [VERTON, 2003, PP. 150-151] Members of the public in New York City also experience communications problems throughout the day, particularly with cell phones (see (After 10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Entity Tags: Colin Powell, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Dennis Hastert, George J. Tenet, George W. Bush Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
(9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Informed of the First Plane Crash, Bush Goes Ahead with Photo-Op Edit
in a template Emma E. Booker Elementary school principal Gwen Tose-Rigell is summoned to a room to talk with George W. Bush. She recalls, “He said a commercial plane has hit the World Trade Center, and we’re going to go ahead and go on, we’re going on to do the reading thing anyway.” One local reporter notes that at this point, “He could and arguably should have left Emma E. Booker Elementary School immediately, gotten onto Air Force One and left Sarasota without a moment’s delay.” 
(9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Condoleezza Rice Informs President Bush Flight 11 Has Hit the WTC, but Knows Nothing ElseEdit
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice later claims she was in her White House office when she heard about the first World Trade Center crash just before 9:00 a.m. (see (Between 8:46 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). She will recall, “I thought to myself, what an odd accident.” She reportedly speaks to President Bush around 9:00 a.m. on the telephone, and tells him that a twin-engine plane has struck the WTC tower. She says, “That’s all we know right now, Mr. President.” [NEWSWEEK, 12/31/2001] Rice later claims: “He said, what a terrible, it sounds like a terrible accident. Keep me informed.” [ABC NEWS, 9/11/2002] Despite her title of national security adviser, she is apparently unaware that NORAD scrambled planes about 15 minutes earlier in response to the hijacking of Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). She goes ahead with her usual national security staff meeting. [NEWSWEEK, 12/31/2001] Author James Bamford will comment, “Neither Rice nor Bush was aware that the United States had gone to ‘battle stations’ alert and had scrambled fighter jets into the air to intercept and possibly take hostile action against multiple hijacked airliners, something that was then known by hundreds of others within NORAD, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the Pentagon.” [BAMFORD, 2004, PP. 17] Congressman Dan Miller, who is waiting in a receiving line to meet Bush at the Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, says he waits a few minutes for the call with Rice to end. Bush appears unbothered when he greets Miller after it. Miller recalls, “It was nothing different from the normal, brief greeting with the president.” [ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 7/4/2004] Entity Tags: George W. Bush, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Dan Miller, Condoleezza Rice, James Bamford Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
===(9:01 a.m.) September 11, 2001: President Bush Claims to See First WTC Crash on Television while at Elementary School
President Bush later makes the following statement: “And I was sitting outside the classroom waiting to go in, and I saw an airplane hit the tower—the television was obviously on, and I use to fly myself, and I said, ‘There’s one terrible pilot.’ And I said, ‘It must have been a horrible accident.’ But I was whisked off there—I didn’t have much time to think about it.” [US PRESIDENT, 12/10/2001] He has repeated the story on other occasions. [US PRESIDENT, 1/14/2002; CBS NEWS, 9/11/2002] Notably, the first WTC Crash was not shown live on television. Further, Bush does not have access to a television until 15 or so minutes later. [WASHINGTON TIMES, 10/7/2002] A Boston Herald article later notes, “Think about that. Bush’s remark implies he saw the first plane hit the tower. But we all know that video of the first plane hitting did not surface until the next day. Could Bush have meant he saw the second plane hit—which many Americans witnessed? No, because he said that he was in the classroom when Andrew Card whispered in his ear that a second plane hit.” The article, noting that Bush has repeated this story more than once, asks, “How could the commander in chief have seen the plane fly into the first building—as it happened?” [BOSTON HERALD, 10/22/2002] A Bush spokesman later calls Bush’s repeated comments “just a mistaken recollection.” [WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/22/2004 ] Entity Tags: George W. Bush Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001: President Bush’s Security Agents Watch Second WTC Crash on Television; Bush Continues with Photo-Op
Bill Balkwill. [Source: Sarasota County Sheriff's Office] According to Sarasota County Sheriff Bill Balkwill, just after President Bush enters a Booker Elementary classroom, a Marine responsible for carrying Bush’s phone walks up to Balkwill, who is standing in a nearby side room. While listening to someone talk to him in his earpiece, the Marine asks, “Can you get me to a television? We’re not sure what’s going on, but we need to see a television.” Three Secret Service agents, a SWAT member, the Marine, and Balkwill turn on the television in a nearby front office just as Flight 175 crashes into the WTC. “We’re out of here,” the Marine tells Balkwill. “Can you get everyone ready?” [SARASOTA HERALD-TRIBUNE, 9/10/2002] However, Bush stays at the school for another half-hour. Who makes the decision to stay—and why—remains unclear, and the Secret Service won’t comment on the matter. Philip Melanson, author of a book on the Secret Service, comments, “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. You’re safer in that presidential limo, which is bombproof and blastproof and bulletproof.… In the presidential limo, the communications system is almost duplicative of the White House—he can do almost anything from there but he can’t do much sitting in a school.” [ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 7/4/2004] The decision to allow the president to remain in the classroom seems odder still considering that, according to the Tampa Tribune, the reason that Sandra Kay Daniels’ classroom has been selected for Bush’s photo-op is “not because [it] fulfilled some complicated formula; her classroom merely was situated next to the school’s north door, making it easier to organize elaborate security.” [TAMPA TRIBUNE, 9/1/2002] Entity Tags: Bill Balkwill, Secret Service, George W. Bush Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
(9:03 a.m.-9:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001: President Bush Enters Classroom Photo-Op, Still Claims to Think WTC Crash Is Accidental
President Bush enters Sandra Kay Daniels’ classroom. [Source: Lions Gate Films] President Bush enters Sandra Kay Daniels’ second-grade class for a photo-op to promote his education policies. [DAILY MAIL, 9/8/2002] Numerous reporters who travel with the president, as well as members of the local media, watch from the back of the room. [ASSOCIATED PRESS, 8/19/2002] Secret Service agents protecting the president are lying in the trusses above the classroom. [SARASOTA HERALD-TRIBUNE, 9/10/2002] Altogether, there are about 150 people in the room, 16 of whom are children in the class. Bush is introduced to the children and poses for a number of pictures. The teacher then leads the students through some reading exercises (video footage shows this lasts about three minutes). [SALON, 9/11/2001] Bush later claims that during this lesson, he is thinking what he will say about the WTC crash. “I was concentrating on the program at this point, thinking about what I was going to say. Obviously, I felt it was an accident. I was concerned about it, but there were no alarm bells.” [WASHINGTON TIMES, 10/7/2002] The children are just getting their books from under their seats to read a story together when Chief of Staff Andrew Card comes in to tell Bush of the second WTC crash. [DAILY TELEGRAPH, 12/16/2001; WASHINGTON TIMES, 10/8/2002] According to the Washington Times, Card comes in at the conclusion of the first half of the planned lesson, and “[seizes] a pause in the reading drill to walk up to Mr. Bush’s seat.” [WASHINGTON TIMES, 10/7/2002; WASHINGTON TIMES, 10/8/2002] Entity Tags: Andrew Card, Sandra Kay Daniels, George W. Bush Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
(9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Fighters Do Not Have Shootdown Authority A fighter pilot flying from Otis Air Base toward New York City later notes that it wouldn’t have mattered if he caught up with Flight 175, because only President Bush could order a shootdown, and Bush is at a public event at the time. [CAPE COD TIMES, 8/21/2002] “Only the president has the authority to order a civilian aircraft shot down,” according to a 1999 CNN report. [CNN, 10/26/1999] In fact, by 9/11, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld also has the authority to order a shootdown, but he is not responding to the crisis at this time. [NEW YORK OBSERVER, 6/20/2004] Furthermore, NORAD Commander Larry Arnold later states that on 9/11, “I have the authority in case of an emergency to declare a target hostile and shoot it down under an emergency condition.” [FILSON, 2003, PP. 75] Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
(9:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001: President Bush Told WTC Hit Again and US Is Under Attack; He Continues Photo-Op
Andrew Card speaks to President Bush and tells him of the second World Trade Center crash. [Source: Agence France-Presse] President Bush is in a Booker Elementary School second-grader classroom. His chief of staff, Andrew Card, enters the room and whispers into his ear, “A second plane hit the other tower, and America’s under attack.” [EDUCATION CHANNEL, 9/11/2001; NEW YORK TIMES, 9/16/2001; DAILY TELEGRAPH, 12/16/2001; ALBUQUERQUE TRIBUNE, 9/10/2002; ABC NEWS, 9/11/2002; WASHINGTON TIMES, 10/8/2002] Intelligence expert James Bamford describes Bush’s reaction: “Immediately [after Card speaks to Bush] an expression of befuddlement passe[s] across the president’s face. Then, having just been told that the country was under attack, the commander in chief appear[s] uninterested in further details. He never ask[s] if there had been any additional threats, where the attacks were coming from, how to best protect the country from further attacks.… Instead, in the middle of a modern-day Pearl Harbor, he simply turn[s] back to the matter at hand: the day’s photo-op.” [BAMFORD, 2002, PP. 633] Bush begins listening to a story about a goat. But despite the pause and change in children’s exercises, as one newspaper put it, “For some reason, Secret Service agents [do] not bustle him away.” [GLOBE AND MAIL, 9/12/2001] Bush later says of the experience: “I am very aware of the cameras. I’m trying to absorb that knowledge. I have nobody to talk to. I’m sitting in the midst of a classroom with little kids, listening to a children’s story and I realize I’m the commander in chief and the country has just come under attack.” [DAILY TELEGRAPH, 12/16/2001] Bush continues to listen to the goat story for several more minutes. [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 38-39] According to author Christopher Andersen, the reason he does this is, “Without all the facts at hand, George Bush ha[s] no intention of upsetting the schoolchildren who had come to read for him.” [CBS NEWS, 11/1/2002] Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport is only three and a half miles away. In fact, the elementary school was chosen for the photo-op partly because of its closeness to the airport. [SARASOTA HERALD-TRIBUNE, 9/12/2002] Why the Secret Service does not move Bush away from his publicized location (see September 7, 2001) that morning remains unclear. Entity Tags: Andrew Card, George W. Bush, James Bamford, Secret Service Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
(9:06 a.m.-9:16 a.m.) September 11, 2001: President Bush Reads Pet Goat Story for Nearly Ten Minutes; Warned Not to Talk
President Bush and Sandra Kay Daniels read the goat story while the media watches. [Source: White House/ Eric Draper<] President Bush, having just been told of the second WTC crash, stays in the Booker Elementary School Classroom, and listens as 16 Booker Elementary School second-graders take turns reading “The Pet Goat.” It’s a simple story about a girl’s pet goat. [AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, 9/7/2002; EDITOR & PUBLISHER, 7/2/2004] They are just about to begin reading when Bush is told of the attack. One account says that the classroom is then silent for about 30 seconds, maybe more. Bush then picks up the book and reads with the children “for eight or nine minutes.” [TAMPA TRIBUNE, 9/1/2002] In unison, the children read aloud, “The—Pet—Goat. A—girl—got—a—pet—goat. But—the—goat—did—some—things—that—made—the—girl’s—dad—mad.” And so on. Bush mostly listens, but does ask the children a few questions to encourage them. [WASHINGTON TIMES, 10/7/2002] At one point he says, “Really good readers, whew!… These must be sixth-graders!” [TIME, 9/12/2001] In the back of the room, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer catches Bush’s eye and holds up a pad of paper for him to read, with “DON’ T SAY ANYTHING YET” written on it in big block letters. [WASHINGTON TIMES, 10/7/2002] (Note that three articles claim that Bush leaves the classroom at 9:12 a.m.) [NEW YORK TIMES, 9/16/2001; DAILY TELEGRAPH, 12/16/2001; DAILY MAIL, 9/8/2002] However, a videotape of the event lasts for “at least seven additional minutes” and ends before Bush leaves. [WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/22/2004 ] (The timing of this entry is a rough approximation based mostly on the Tampa Tribune estimate. Much of this video footage is shown in Michael Moore’s documentary Fahrenheit 9/11.) [NEW YORK TIMES, 6/18/2004] Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Ari Fleischer Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
(9:16 a.m.) September 11, 2001: President Bush Takes His Time Leaving Classroom Photo-Op
Bush continues to read the goat story. [Source: Lions Gate Films] President Bush leaves the Sarasota classroom where he has been since about 9:03 a.m.(see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). The children finish their lessons and put away their readers. [SARASOTA MAGAZINE, 9/19/2001] Bush advises the children to stay in school and be good citizens. [TAMPA TRIBUNE, 9/1/2002; ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 9/8/2002] He also tells the children, “Thank you all so very much for showing me your reading skills.” [ABC NEWS, 9/11/2002] One student also asks Bush a question, and Bush gives a quick response on his education policy. [NEW YORK POST, 9/12/2002] A reporter asks, “Mr. President, are you aware of the reports of the plane crash in New York? Is there any…” This question is interrupted by an aide who has come into the room, saying, “All right. Thank you. If everyone could please step outside.” Bush then says, “We’ll talk about it later.” [CBS NEWS, 9/11/2002] Bush then tells school principal Gwen Tose-Rigell, who is in the room, about the terror attacks and why he has to leave. [WASHINGTON TIMES, 10/7/2002] He then goes into an empty classroom next door and meets with his staff there. [ABC NEWS, 9/11/2002] Bush’s program with the children was supposed to start at 9:00 a.m. and end 20 minutes later. [SARASOTA HERALD-TRIBUNE, 9/16/2001] He leaves the classroom only a couple of minutes earlier than planned, if at all. The “goodbyes” and questions on the way out may have taken another minute or two. Entity Tags: Gwen Tose-Rigell, George W. Bush Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
(Between 9:16 a.m. and 9:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Secret Service Still Does Not Evacuate Bush From School, Allegedly at the President’s InsistenceEdit
Frank Brogan. [Source: Publicity photo] The Secret Service later tells the 9/11 Commission that while he is in the holding room at the Booker Elementary School (see (9:16 a.m.-9:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001), they are “anxious to move the president to a safer location, but did not think it imperative for him to run out the door.” [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 39] Yet according to Philip Melanson, who is an expert on the Secret Service, “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.” [ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 7/4/2004] Bush himself later recalls that at this time, “[T]he Secret Service and the Mil Aide [military aide] was in the process of getting information about where the president ought to go. One thing for certain, I needed to get out of where I was.” [SAMMON, 2002, PP. 93] Yet he does not immediately leave the school, and will remain there to give a brief statement in its library (see 9:29 a.m. September 11, 2001). According to Frank Brogan, the lieutenant governor of Florida, who is also in the holding room at this time, the Secret Service tries to get the president to return to Air Force One immediately. But Bush refuses, saying he is “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.” [UP ONLINE, 9/18/2003] Bush himself later says that while he is in the holding room, “I didn’t spend that much time about my own safety because I knew others were worried about that. What I was interested in is making sure that the response mechanism that was under my control was sharp and ready to go. And that meant defense, for starters.” [SAMMON, 2002, PP. 93] Yet he reportedly will not make any decisions about the response to the attacks until after 9:55 a.m. (see (Between 10:00 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The 9/11 Commission later claims that, while Bush is in the holding room, “No one in the traveling party had any information… that other aircraft were hijacked or missing. Staff was in contact with the White House Situation Room, but as far as we could determine, no one with the president was in contact with the Pentagon.” [WASHINGTON POST, 1/27/2002; 9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 39-41] In contrast to the Secret Service’s inaction in removing Bush from the school, Vice President Dick Cheney is reportedly “seized by the arms, legs and his belt and physically carried” out of his office by Secret Service agents around this time, in order to get him to the bunker below the White House. Cheney himself says the agents “hoisted me up and moved me very rapidly down the hallway, down some stairs” (see (9:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [NBC, 9/16/2001; DAILY TELEGRAPH, 12/16/2001] Entity Tags: Secret Service, Frank Brogan, George W. Bush Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
(9:16 a.m.-9:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001: President Bush Works on Speech with Staff; Makes No Decisions
Bush in a holding room before giving his speech. Communications director Dan Bartlett points to the TV, and the clock reads 9:25. [Source: White House] After leaving the Booker Elementary School classroom, President Bush returns to an adjacent holding room where he is briefed by his staff, and gets his first look at the footage of the burning World Trade Center on a television that has been set up there. He instructs his press secretary, Ari Fleischer, to take notes to create an accurate accounting of events. According to some accounts, he speaks on the phone with Vice President Dick Cheney who is at the White House, and they both agree that terrorists are probably behind the attacks. [SAMMON, 2002, PP. 92-93; DAILY MAIL, 9/8/2002; 9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 39] But White House adviser Karl Rove, who is also in the holding room, later tells NBC News that Bush is unable to reach Cheney because the vice president is being moved from his office to the White House bunker at this time. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] The president speaks with New York Governor George Pataki and FBI Director Robert Mueller. Bush learns from Mueller that the planes that hit the WTC were commercial American aircraft, and at least one of them had apparently been hijacked after leaving Boston. According to some accounts, Bush also speaks with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice around this time. However, Rice herself will later suggest otherwise (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:58 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [SAMMON, 2002, PP. 93-94; DAILY MAIL, 9/8/2002; ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 9/8/2002; 9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 39] Fleischer and White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett quickly draft a statement for the president to deliver in the school’s library, which Bush rewords, scribbling three sheets of notes. Bush will deliver this at 9:29 a.m. (see 9:29 a.m. September 11, 2001). While he works on the statement, Bush briefly glances at the unfolding horror on the television. Turning to his aides in the room, he declares, “We’re at war.” [SAMMON, 2002, PP. 94; ALBUQUERQUE TRIBUNE, 9/10/2002] According to the 9/11 Commission, the focus at the present time is on the president’s statement to the nation, and the only decision made by Bush’s traveling party is to return to Washington. [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 39] Bush later claims he makes no major decisions in response to the crisis until after Air Force One takes off at around 9:55 a.m. (see (Shortly After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [WASHINGTON POST, 1/27/2002] Entity Tags: George E. Pataki, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Robert S. Mueller III, George W. Bush, Dan Bartlett, Karl Rove, Ari Fleischer, Condoleezza Rice Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
9:29 a.m. September 11, 2001: President Bush Makes a Scheduled Speech; Proclaims Terrorist Attack on Our Country Edit
Still inside Booker Elementary School, President Bush gives a brief speech in front of about 200 students, plus many teachers and reporters. [DAILY MAIL, 9/8/2002] He says, “Today we’ve had a national tragedy. Two airplanes have crashed into the World Trade Center in an apparent terrorist attack on our country.” [FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, 9/11/2001] The talk occurs at exactly the time and place stated in his publicly announced advance schedule—making Bush a possible terrorist target. [WASHINGTON POST, 9/12/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001; NEW YORK TIMES, 9/12/2001; MSNBC, 9/22/2001] This is the last most Americans will see of Bush until the evening. reporters at Booker Elementary School. Entity Tags: George W. Bush Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
(After 9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Secret Service Finally Rushes President Bush Out of School Edit
Kevin Down, a Sarasota police officer, recalls that immediately after President Bush’s speech concludes, “The Secret Service agent [runs] out from the school and [says] We’re under terrorist attack, we have to go now.” [BBC, 9/1/2002] The motorcade departs a few minutes later.
(9:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001: President Bush Leaves Booker Elementary School for Sarasota Airport, Initially Heading in Wrong Direction; Possible Threat En RouteEdit
Bushâs motorcade on its way to the Sarasota airport. [Source: CBC] President Bush’s motorcade leaves Booker Elementary School bound for Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. It initially heads off in the wrong direction, though, and has to perform a U-turn in order to proceed toward the airport. [DAILY TELEGRAPH, 12/16/2001; WASHINGTON TIMES, 10/8/2002; WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/22/2004 ; 9/11 COMMISSION, 6/17/2004; CANADIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION, 9/10/2006] A few days after 9/11, Sarasota’s main newspaper reports: “Sarasota barely skirted its own disaster. As it turns out, terrorists targeted the president and Air Force One on Tuesday, maybe even while they were on the ground in Sarasota and certainly not long after. The Secret Service learned of the threat just minutes after Bush left Booker Elementary.” [SARASOTA HERALD-TRIBUNE, 9/16/2001] Kevin Down, a Sarasota police officer at the scene, recalls, “I thought they were actually anticipating a terrorist attack on the president while we were en route.” [BBC, 8/30/2002] ABC News reporter Ann Compton, who is part of the motorcade, recalls, “It was a mad-dash motorcade out to the airport.” [BBC, 9/1/2002]
- Bill Adair; Hegarty, Stephen (2002-09-08). "The drama in Sarasota". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 2007-06-15.
- Pool news report by Judy Keen and Jay Carney on September 11, 2001, posted on USA Today Sept. 11 Resources
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