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Profile: Ashleigh Adams
Ashleigh Adams was a participant or observer in the following events:
Noelia RodrÃguez. [Source: Harvard University]Laura Bush, the president’s wife, is told that a second plane has crashed into the World Trade Center and realizes this is a terrorist attack while she is being driven from the White House to Capitol Hill, where she is scheduled to testify before a Congressional committee. [Us Weekly, 10/15/2001; CNN, 9/11/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 197-198] Bush is set to appear before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions at 10:00 a.m., where she will talk about early childhood education. [USA Today, 9/10/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001; CNN, 9/11/2002] Her lead Secret Service agent informed her of the first crash at the WTC as she was getting into her limousine, outside the White House, but she’d thought the crash was an accident (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [National Journal, 8/31/2002; Gerhart, 2004, pp. 162]
First Lady Told of Second Crash, Knows It Is Terrorism - The Secret Service agents traveling with Bush now tell the first lady about the second crash at the WTC while her limousine is driving up Pennsylvania Avenue, approaching Capitol Hill. “The car fell silent; we sat in mute disbelief,” Bush will later recall. “One plane might be a strange accident; two planes were clearly an attack.” She will note, “We knew then that it was terrorism.” [CNN, 9/11/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 198]
Members of First Lady's Staff Learn of Crash - Members of Bush’s staff also learn about the second crash around this time, while they are on their way to Capitol Hill. Ashleigh Adams, the first lady’s deputy press secretary, learns of it while traveling in the press van. “It must have been only a couple of minutes after we departed the White House,” Adams will recall, “that the reporters’ and photographers’ pagers and cell phones started to go off, and someone shouted to me, ‘Ashleigh, the second Twin Tower was hit.’” Adams calls Noelia Rodriguez, the first lady’s press secretary, who is traveling in the staff van, and tells her the news. After Rodriguez arrives on Capitol Hill, she will jump out of the staff van, run to Bush’s limousine, and get inside. But she will find that the first lady has already been informed of the second crash. [National Journal, 8/31/2002]
First Lady Learns of Crash 11 Minutes after It Occurs - Bush will recall that she arrives at the Russell Senate Office Building, where the hearing she is set to attend is supposed to take place, two minutes after she is told about the second crash, at 9:16 a.m., meaning she learns of the crash at 9:14 a.m. [Bush, 2010, pp. 198] This is 11 minutes after the second plane, Flight 175, hit the WTC (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 8]
Secret Service emergency response team officers patrolling the South Lawn of the White House. [Source: Associated Press]Laura Bush, the president’s wife, is escorted out of the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, DC, by members of the Secret Service with their guns drawn, to be driven away to a secure location. [National Journal, 8/31/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 200] People began evacuating from the Russell Senate Office Building and the nearby Capitol building at 9:48 a.m., apparently due to concerns that a plane was 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] While Bush and her staff were waiting for the Secret Service emergency response team to arrive and take them away from the Russell Office Building, they stayed in the office of Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) (see (9:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Emergency Response Team Arrives with Guns Drawn - Secret Service agents collect the first lady from Gregg’s office at “[s]ometime after 10:00 a.m.,” Bush will later recall. [Bush, 2010, pp. 200] Bush usually travels with four Secret Service agents. [Kessler, 2006, pp. 136; Kessler, 2009, pp. 181] But her usual agents are now joined by “an additional Secret Service detail and an emergency response team, dressed in black tactical clothing like a SWAT force and moving with guns drawn.” As Bush is being hurried through the hallways, past panicked staffers leaving their offices, members of the emergency response team escorting her shout, “Get back!” and cover her every move with their guns. [Bush, 2010, pp. 200]
First Lady Escorted to Her Limousine - Noelia Rodriguez, the first lady’s press secretary, will recall that she and several other members of Bush’s staff reach Bush’s limousine before the first lady does. While they are waiting there, they chat excitedly, asking each other: “What could this be? Where are we going? What’s next?” But the driver instructs them to be quiet, saying, “Ladies, this is a time to pay attention.” “Just then,” Rodriguez will say, “what seemed like two dozen of these ninja guys surrounded the car—Secret Service agents all dressed in black. Mrs. Bush then got in the car.” [National Journal, 8/31/2002] Bush will describe, “We reached the underground entrance; the doors on the motorcade slammed shut, and we sped off.” [Bush, 2010, pp. 200]
Motorcade Delayed before Leaving Capitol Hill - However, Bush and those accompanying her reportedly face a delay as they are about to drive off. Ashleigh Adams, the first lady’s deputy press secretary, will describe, “At one point, we were all going to leave, and then Mrs. Bush got out of the motorcade and they [presumably members of the Secret Service] told us to stay in the staff van.” At this point, Adams will say, “Everyone was distraught” and they “didn’t know what was going on.” She will add: “We knew something was going on in DC, because we could see people running around. A lot of us were under the impression that there were car bombs going off throughout the city.” Bush and those accompanying her leave Capitol Hill at 10:10 a.m., according to Rodriguez. [National Journal, 8/31/2002] Bush’s Secret Service agents say they are going to take everyone to a secure location. This turns out to be the Secret Service headquarters in Washington (see (10:10 a.m.-10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Kessler, 2006, pp. 136]
Andi Ball. [Source: White House]Laura Bush, the president’s wife, and her entourage are driven from Capitol Hill to the Secret Service headquarters in Washington, DC, for their own security, but their journey is slowed by the heavy traffic. [Woodward, 2002, pp. 17; National Journal, 8/31/2002; Kessler, 2006, pp. 136; Bush, 2010, pp. 200-201] Bush has been at the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, where she was originally scheduled to testify before a Senate committee. [CNN, 9/12/2001; Woodward, 2002, pp. 16-17] Her Secret Service agents have said they are going to take the first lady and her staff to a secure location. [Kessler, 2006, pp. 136] After the Secret Service emergency response team arrived for her, Bush was escorted out of the Russell Senate Office Building and to her limousine (see (Shortly After 10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Bush and those accompanying her leave Capitol Hill at 10:10 a.m., according to Noelia Rodriguez, the first lady’s press secretary.
Agents with Guns Drawn Protect Motorcade - Secret Service agents protect Bush’s motorcade with their guns as it heads to the secure location. Ashleigh Adams, the first lady’s deputy press secretary, will later recall, “It felt like we were in a war, because the Secret Service was driving next to the motorcade and they were hanging out of the windows with their machine guns out.” She will add that she has “been around the agents” before, but has “never seen them with their guns.”
Motorcade Delayed by Traffic - However, the motorcade is slowed by the heavy traffic. Bush will describe, “Outside our convoy windows, the city streets were clogged with people evacuating their workplaces and trying to reach their own homes.” Rodriguez will say, “In the car, we seemed to be going in slow motion.” [National Journal, 8/31/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 200] “The traffic was so bad that everything was stopped,” Andi Ball, Bush’s chief of staff, will recall. One of the Secret Service agents escorting Bush and her staff will later say a car sideswiped them during the journey.
Secure Location Is Secret Service Headquarters - The “secure location” that Bush and her staff are being taken to turns out to be the Secret Service headquarters. [Kessler, 2006, pp. 136] The Secret Service headquarters, according to journalist and author Ronald Kessler, is “an anonymous nine-story tan brick building on H Street at Ninth Street NW in Washington.” [Kessler, 2009, pp. 23] It is located a few blocks from the White House. After the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) it was reinforced to survive a large-scale blast. Bush and her entourage arrive there through an underground entrance. [Washington Post, 8/23/2009; Bush, 2010, pp. 200-201]
Journey Reportedly Takes 45 Minutes - The exact time they arrive at is unclear. According to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, “In the traffic jam from the Capitol, it took 45 minutes to get [Bush] to Secret Service headquarters.” This would mean the first lady arrives there at around 10:55 a.m. [Woodward, 2002, pp. 17] However, Bush will write that she watches the North Tower of the World Trade Center collapsing “live in front of my eyes,” on a screen at the headquarters. [Bush, 2010, pp. 201] If this is correct, she must arrive at the headquarters sometime before 10:28 a.m., when the North Tower comes down (see 10:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 311] White House spokespeople will refuse to disclose where the first lady has been taken to, only saying she is at a “secure location.” [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001; CNN, 9/11/2002]
Laura Bush, the president’s wife, and her entourage arrive at the Secret Service headquarters in Washington, DC, where they will remain for much of the rest of the day, and where they make phone calls to their relatives and watch television coverage of the terrorist attacks. [Woodward, 2002, pp. 17; National Journal, 8/31/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 201-203] Bush and her staff have been brought to the headquarters for their own security by members of the Secret Service. The building, located a few blocks from the White House, is strengthened to survive a large-scale blast. Bush and those accompanying her were driven there from the Russell Senate Office Building, on Capitol Hill (see (10:10 a.m.-10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Kessler, 2006, pp. 136; Bush, 2010, pp. 200-201] They are initially taken to the office of Brian Stafford, the Secret Service director, which is on an upper floor of the building. [Draper, 2007, pp. 143; Bush, 2010, pp. 201]
First Lady and Staff Call Their Families - Bush tells her staffers to call their families. Noelia Rodriguez, the first lady’s press secretary, will later recall, “Mrs. Bush told us, ‘Find phones, get hold of your families, and let them know you are okay.’” Bush calls her daughters, Jenna and Barbara, and her mother (see (Between 11:00 a.m. and 11:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [National Journal, 8/31/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 202] She will also talk with President Bush while at the headquarters (see (Shortly Before 11:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Bush, 2010, pp. 132; Bush, 2010, pp. 202-203]
First Lady Moved to Basement - After a time, the first lady and her staff are moved from the director’s office to the basement of the headquarters, apparently after they have made their phone calls. Ashleigh Adams, the first lady’s deputy press secretary, will recall, “[W]e took turns using the telephone and then we went to another floor where there was a large-screen TV.” Journalist and author Robert Draper will note that Bush’s Secret Service agents move the first lady after realizing that, in light of the day’s attacks, having her on an upper floor is “perhaps not such a hot idea.” [National Journal, 8/31/2002; Draper, 2007, pp. 143; Bush, 2010, pp. 201] In the basement, Bush and her staff go to the William Wood Conference Room. [Woodward, 2002, pp. 17] The windowless room has a large display screen across one wall, showing a constant TV feed. “For a while,” she will recall, Bush sits “in a small area off the conference room, silently watching the images on television.” According to Adams, “Mrs. Bush didn’t want the volume up, so we just sat there watching the TV like a silent movie.”
First Lady and Staff Lack a 'True Sense' of What Is Happening - Bush will describe the “chaos” regarding the attacks that she and those with her experience, writing: “It got so that we were living in five-minute increments, wondering if a new plane would emerge from the sky and hit a target. All of us in that basement conference room and many more in the Secret Service building were relying on rumors and on whatever news came from the announcers on television. When there were reports of more errant planes or other targets, it was almost impossible not to believe them.” According to Adams, “Because the TV was on, but we didn’t have volume, it was hard to have a true sense of what was going on.” Bush and her staff will remain in the conference room for several hours. [National Journal, 8/31/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 201-203]
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