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Context of '(9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001: National Security Adviser Rice Calls President Bush before Heading to White House Bunker'

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Bush in a holding room before giving his speech. Communications director Dan Bartlett points to the TV, and the clock reads 9:25. 
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, will later tell 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 (9:45 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 9:30 a.m. (see 9:30 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 will later claim that 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, Dan Bartlett, Condoleezza Rice, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, George W. Bush, Ari Fleischer, Robert S. Mueller III, Karl C. Rove

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

President Bush trying to use a cell phone as his motorcade nears the Sarasota airport.President Bush trying to use a cell phone as his motorcade nears the Sarasota airport. [Source: Associated Press]President Bush has difficulty communicating with colleagues in Washington, DC, while he is being driven to Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006] Bush left the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, at around 9:35 a.m. to be driven to Air Force One (see (9:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Bloomberg, 6/17/2004] While he is in his limousine, he tries calling colleagues at the White House over a secure telephone line, but all the secure lines are down. He ends up trying to call Washington using a borrowed cell phone. Even this doesn’t work, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006] However, he talks with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice around this time, which means he is able to make at least one call (see (Between 9:38 a.m. and 9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Bush, 2010, pp. 128] Dave Wilkinson, assistant special agent in charge of the presidential protection division, will later comment on the difficulties Bush and his entourage have communicating with Washington today, saying, “Every kind of communication… was challenged” and the “communications network did not hold up.” [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] Lee Hamilton, vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission, will claim that Bush had difficulty communicating with Washington while he was being driven to the airport because members of his entourage all tried calling the capital at the same time after leaving the school, thereby causing a “communication jam.” However, the communication problems will continue after Bush takes off from Sarasota on Air Force One (see (9:54 a.m.-2:50 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006] The president’s difficulty reaching his colleagues in Washington during the drive to the airport is particularly notable since, just a few months ago, Bush instructed Joseph Hagin, his deputy chief of staff for operations, to promptly ensure that he is always able to make phone calls, after he had trouble making a call from his limousine (see Spring 2001). Hagin has apparently not yet fixed the problem. [National Journal, 4/11/2011]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Lee Hamilton, Condoleezza Rice, Dave Wilkinson

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

President Bush learns that the Pentagon has been attacked while he is being driven to Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, during a phone call with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39; Bush, 2010, pp. 128] Bush and his entourage left the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, at around 9:35 a.m. to be taken to Air Force One (see (9:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Bloomberg, 6/17/2004] As the president’s limousine is speeding toward the airport, Bush and Andrew Card, his chief of staff, talk on the phone with colleagues at the White House. [White House, 8/16/2002; St. Petersburg Times, 9/8/2002] In a call with Rice, Bush is told that there has been a third plane crash, this one at the Pentagon. [Bush, 2010, pp. 128] The attack took place at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 10] Rice, who is in the White House Situation Room, learned about it when she saw it being reported on television. [White House, 10/24/2001; O, the Oprah Magazine, 2/1/2002]
Bush Appears 'Preternaturally Calm' - After Rice tells him about the attack, Bush “sat back in my seat and absorbed her words,” he will later recall. “My thoughts clarified,” he will write, adding: “The first plane could have been an accident. The second was definitely an attack. The third was a declaration of war.” In response to the news, he will recall, his “blood [is] boiling” and he thinks, “We [are] going to find out who did this and kick their ass.” [Bush, 2010, pp. 128] Bush, though, is able to maintain his composure, according to Karl Rove, his senior adviser, who is with him in the limousine. “I was aghast at the news [of the attack on the Pentagon] and probably seemed anxious,” Rove will comment, but “he seemed preternaturally calm.” [Rove, 2010, pp. 252]
Accounts Will Conflict over Who Makes the Call - Bush will claim that he makes the call to Rice. [Bush, 2010, pp. 128] Rice, though, will say that she makes it (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [BBC Radio 4, 8/1/2002 pdf file; MSNBC, 9/11/2002; New York Times, 9/11/2002] Bush will also state that he talks to Rice using the secure phone in his limousine. [Bush, 2010, pp. 128] However, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the secure telephone lines are currently down and so he has to contact Washington, DC, using a borrowed cell phone (see (9:34 a.m.-9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006]

Entity Tags: Andrew Card, George W. Bush, Karl C. Rove, Condoleezza Rice

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Bush boards Air Force One in Sarasota, Florida, waving to people below as if the day were like any other.Bush boards Air Force One in Sarasota, Florida, waving to people below as if the day were like any other. [Source: Agence France-Presse]President Bush and his entourage arrive at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, where Air Force One is waiting, and Bush hurriedly gets onto his plane. [BBC, 9/1/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39] Bush left the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, at around 9:35 a.m. to be driven to Air Force One (see (9:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Bloomberg, 6/17/2004]
Limousine Stops Right by Air Force One - His limousine now speeds past the airport’s main entrance, goes north, and veers down a tiny road leading to the airport, ignoring a sign that states, “No Airport Access.” It then passes through a small, unmarked gate in a chain-link fence and races across the tarmac toward Air Force One. It swings around the plane’s tail and stops behind the left wing. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 98-99] The motorcade arrives at the airport between 9:42 a.m. and 9:45 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission Report. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39] According to journalist and author Bill Sammon, Bush’s limousine reaches the airport at 9:43 a.m. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 99; Washington Times, 10/8/2002]
Plane's Engines Are Already Running - Colonel Mark Tillman, the pilot of Air Force One, started two of the plane’s four engines while Bush was on his way to the airport. White House chief of staff Andrew Card will later comment that he is “struck that the engines on Air Force One [are] running” when the motorcade reaches the airport, since this is “normally a protocol no-no.” [United Services Automobile Association, 9/11/2011; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] “Usually you don’t start the engine until the president is already on the plane,” he will say. [BBC, 9/9/2011]
President Usually Takes His Time Saying Goodbye - Normally, when his motorcade arrives at Air Force One, the president “emerges from the limo, waves to the crowd behind barricades, thanks hosts who have accompanied him, and shakes hands with the airport personnel and guests who’ve come to see him off,” Karl Rove, Bush’s senior adviser, will write. The president then “walks alone up the steps to Air Force One at a leisurely pace, stopping to wave again to the people on the tarmac.” The other people in the motorcade usually only start to get on board once he is on the plane. [Rove, 2010, pp. 252]
Bush Hurries up the Stairs onto Air Force One - Today, though, the Secret Service wants to get the president onto Air Force One as quickly as possible. [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] Bush therefore walks briskly up the long mobile staircase behind the left wing. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 99; Walsh, 2003, pp. 207] He is “just trucking up the stairs” without his usual “Texas swagger,” Tillman will describe. [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] He does find time, however, to pause at the doorway to wave to photographers before entering the plane. [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004] Once he is on board, he goes to his private cabin near the front of the aircraft. A Secret Service agent tells him, “Mr. President, we need you to get seated as soon as possible.” Bush then straps himself in, ready for takeoff. [Woodward, 2002, pp. 16]
Chief of Staff Is Frustrated by the Passengers Delaying Takeoff - Meanwhile, everyone who is traveling on Air Force One apart from Bush and his senior staff boards the plane through its back stairs. But before doing so they are subjected to a strict security check (see (9:45 a.m.-9:53 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 99; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] Card becomes frustrated that takeoff is being delayed due to the time it takes to get so many passengers onto the plane. [White House, 8/16/2002; St. Petersburg Times, 9/8/2002] Air Force One will take off unusually quickly once all the passengers are on board. [Rochester Review, 9/2004; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] It usually takes another 15 minutes after everyone has boarded for the passengers to get seated, the doors to be closed, and the engines to power up, according to Rove. [Rove, 2010, pp. 252] But today Air Force One will take off about 10 minutes after Bush’s motorcade reaches the airport, at around 9:55 a.m. (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 1/27/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39]

Entity Tags: Andrew Card, George W. Bush, Mark Tillman, US Secret Service, Karl C. Rove

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice briefly talks on the phone with President Bush and warns him against returning to Washington, DC, before she is escorted to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), the bunker below the White House. [White House, 11/1/2001; BBC Radio 4, 8/1/2002 pdf file; White House, 8/2/2002] Carl Truscott, the Secret Service special agent in charge of the presidential protective division, has just come into the White House Situation Room and told Rice she must go to the PEOC because a plane may be heading toward the White House (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [United States Secret Service, 10/1/2001; White House, 8/6/2002] But before she goes to the PEOC, Rice wants to talk to the president.
President Told that Washington Is 'under Attack' - Bush has now arrived at the Sarasota airport after leaving the Booker Elementary School (see (9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [White House, 8/2/2002; New York Times, 9/11/2002] Rice calls him and says: “Mr. President, here’s what’s going on. The Pentagon has been hit.” He tells her, “I’m getting ready to come back [to Washington].” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] Bush is “very calm” as he talks, Rice will later recall. Franklin Miller, a senior national security official who “does defense policy” for Rice, is with the national security adviser. [White House, 10/24/2001; White House, 11/1/2001] He whispers to her, “Tell him that it may not be wise to come back here, because Washington is under attack.” [White House, 8/2/2002] Rice therefore tells Bush: “Sir, you can’t come back here. Washington’s under attack.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002]
Rice Is Being 'Pushed' to Go to the Bunker - The call between Bush and Rice is only short. Rice will say this is because she is “being pushed” by Truscott “to get off the phone and get out of the West Wing.” [White House, 8/2/2002; CBS News, 9/11/2002] “I had people pulling at my arm, saying, ‘You have to go to the bunker,’” she will recall. [White House, 11/1/2001] After she has finished speaking to Bush, Rice heads toward the PEOC. She will enter it shortly before 10:00 a.m. (see (Shortly Before 9:59 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [White House, 8/2/2002; Bumiller, 2007, pp. xiii]

Entity Tags: Franklin Miller, George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Carl Truscott

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice enters the underground tunnel leading to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC)—the bunker below the White House—where she encounters Vice President Dick Cheney, and then heads into the PEOC. Rice has been escorted down from the White House Situation Room by Carl Truscott, the Secret Service special agent in charge of the presidential protective division, who told her she had to go to the PEOC (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [United States Secret Service, 10/1/2001; White House, 8/6/2002] Before she left the Situation Room, Rice briefly talked on the phone with President Bush (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [White House, 8/2/2002; White House, 8/6/2002]
Rice Meets Cheney in Underground Tunnel - When Rice and Truscott enter the underground tunnel that leads to the PEOC, they encounter Cheney and his wife, Lynne Cheney, along with one of Cheney’s Secret Service agents. [United States Secret Service, 10/1/2001] Cheney was being taken to the PEOC by his Secret Service agents (see (9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001, but stopped in an area of the underground tunnel where there is a secure telephone, in order to speak to Bush (see (9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (9:45 a.m.-9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Lynne Cheney joined him there after she arrived at the White House (see (9:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39-40] Cheney is still on the phone with Bush when Truscott and Rice meet him. Truscott advises the group assembled in the tunnel to move on to the PEOC. [United States Secret Service, 10/1/2001]
Rice Heads into the PEOC - Rice subsequently goes from the tunnel into the PEOC, although the exact time when she does so is unclear. She enters the PEOC “shortly after the vice president,” according to the 9/11 Commission Report, which will state that Cheney arrives in the PEOC at around 9:58 a.m. (see (9:58 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 40] Rice must enter the PEOC before 9:59 a.m., since she is there at the time the South Tower of the World Trade Center collapses, as will be confirmed by a photo taken at that time (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Newsweek, 12/30/2001; Bumiller, 2007, pp. xiii; Washington Post, 6/24/2007]
Rice Calls Relatives in Alabama - In the PEOC, Rice takes a seat next to Cheney. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 40; Bumiller, 2007, pp. xiii] The first thing she does after arriving, according to some accounts, is call her aunt and uncle in Birmingham, Alabama, to tell them to inform her family that she is okay. [White House, 10/24/2001; O, the Oprah Magazine, 2/1/2002; White House, 8/2/2002; New York Times, 9/11/2002] But other accounts will say she called them just before she headed out from the Situation Room. [White House, 11/1/2001; White House, 8/7/2002; Associated Press, 9/9/2002; Bumiller, 2007, pp. xiii]

Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Carl Truscott, Lynne Cheney, Condoleezza Rice

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Regarding President Bush’s decision not to return to Washington immediately after the 9/11 attacks, historian Robert Dallek tells a USA Today reporter: “Frankly, President Bush made an initial mistake. The president’s place is back in Washington” (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001, (9:45 a.m.-9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001, and 10:02 a.m. September 11, 2001). Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley adds, “If I were Bush, I’d be in the White House right now, saying, ‘We took a hit at the Pentagon and had a disaster in New York, but the government of the United States is unscathed by this and we’re going to march forward.’” When Dallek’s words appear in print, White House political adviser Karl Rove calls Dallek to inform him that Bush did not return to Washington right away because of security threats to the White House (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and Air Force One (see (10:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (4:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). Rove provides no substantiation for his claims, and media critic Eric Alterman later asks, “If you think Air Force One is to be attacked (see (11:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001), why go up in Air Force One?” Looking back on Dallek’s assessment, New York Times columnist Frank Rich later writes, “September 11 was the first time since the British set fire to the White House in 1814 that a president abandoned the capital for security reasons.” [USA Today, 9/12/2001; Rich, 2006, pp. 24-25]

Entity Tags: Frank Rich, Douglas Brinkley, Eric Alterman, Karl C. Rove, Robert Dallek, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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