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President Bush Learns of The Twin Towers - 9/11/2001

On September 11th of 2001, starting at 8:46 am, New York City's Twin Towers were attacked by two passenger jets on suicide missions.

At the time, President George Bush was on his way to Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida. He had planned to make a scheduled visit with some school children when he received the first terrible message. At first, Bush thought the mishap was due to some sort of hideous pilot error.

Within an hour, Bush was reading to the children in the classroom when he received word that a second plane had crashed into the second World Trade Center tower.

Earlier that morning, Bush had received news that there was a slightly increased (but non-specific) threat of terrorist attack that day. Undeterred, President Bush continued with his plans to visit Booker Elementary School.

Bush arrived at the school soon after the first report, and was waiting in an empty classroom when he saw the news footage of the attack on one of the school's TV screens. Almost immediately (and just moments before the second plane crashed), he was whisked into a classroom full of children to read a story book to a group of first graders.

People were filming Bush's reading session when House Chief of Staff Andrew Card walked into the room at 9:06 am, and whispered into the president's ear that the second plane had hit the second tower, and that the nation was under attack by an unknown entity. Bush looked shaken for a moment, as the children continued to read. He let them continue reading for another eight or nine minutes. When the reading was done, Bush commended the children on their wonderful reading skills, and encouraged them to read more, and to watch less TV. Meanwhile, the whole Twin Tower catastrophe was being broadcast on TV. Then Bush posed for pictures with children, parents, and school administrators. A reporter was heard asking the president if he was aware of the attacks. Bush said he'd talk about it some other time.

Bush was then escorted to an empty classroom, where he spoke on the phone with Vice President Cheney and New York governor George Pataki.

Secret Service agents hurried Bush over to Air Force One, which was located at an airport in Sarasota. On his way to the plane, while trying to decide where would be the safest place for him, Bush received a message that the Pentagon had been hit by yet another passenger plane, and that a third passenger plane had crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. No one ever learned where that last plane was headed.

The pilot of Air Force One flew around in circles at cruising altitude, as George Bush spoke with his advisors on the phone to decide where they should land. Air Force One stopped briefly at an Air Force Base in Louisiana, followed by landing in Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. By 6:42 pm, President George W. Bush was back in Washington DC. 

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Mark Hinderberg


Retired History Professor at Vanderbilt University. Love taking a portal through time and sharing my knowledge with anyone else who loves reading about history. It is my passion and my greatest hobby.