Thursday, September 11, 2014

Ari Fleischer: 9/11 Behind The Scenes With Pres. Bush & His Staff

Yes, Americans are weary of war. Especially war fought by half-measures and guided by cultural sensitivities...David Burge Tweet (I would also add guided by political correctness as we've seen after the Ft. Hood shooting)

Ari Fleischer was the WH Press Secretary for George W. Bush. The following are notations and recollections on 9/11 from his Tweets this morning. It's fascinating stuff. 

  • Approx. 8:50 a.m. I got a page on my pager (we didn't have Blackberries then and the IPhone hadn't been invented) telling me a plane hit WTC.
  • As soon as I got the page, I hustled out of my car 2tell the president. He was shaking hands with school officials---none of whom knew the news.
  • After the president finished shaking hands, Karl Rove informed him of what we thought had to be an "accident."
  • 9:00 POTUS goes into the holding room and calls Condi. He instructs her to make resources available 2 help NY, still thinking it was an accident.
  • After the call, POTUS goes into the classroom and starts reading a book to the kids. The press is in the back of the room.
  • 9:05 WH Chief of Staff Andy Card interrupts the president to whisper in his ear--the second tower has been hit. "America is under attack."
  • I wrote in the back of a legal pad-"Don't say anything yet." I wanted him 2b  briefed b4 talking. I put my back to the press & held up the sign.
  • The president continued the reading event for several more minutes. Years later, Michael Moore criticized Bush for not leaving immediately.
  • Bush said later he stayed 2 collect his thoughts and send a signal of calm. He said he didn't want 2 bolt from his chair and alarm the nation.
  • POTUS left the event and went into the holding room 2 get briefed/work on the phones. Here is a picture of the scene. Note: photo shown of Bush and aides on phone.
  • Someone wheeled a TV into the holding room. Here's the scene. Again, photo
  • 9:30 Bush addressed a group in the gym that expected to hear remarks on education. Few people there knew of the attack. No Twitter back then.
  • Terrorism against our nation will not stand (Bush). And now, if you join me in a moment of silence.
  • We boarded the motorcade and drove {fast} to Air Force One, planning for a return to Washington, D.C.
  • 9:37 American Airlines flight 77 crashes into the Pentagon.
  • 9:45 We boarded Air Force One. I was in my seat for the takeoff  and then spent most of the rest of the day in the president's cabin.
  • FOne Captain Mark Tillman told me 10 yrs later that we took off at an unusually steep ascent because he had a report of a sniper at the end of the runway. (Years later Col. Tillman said the control tower reported an unidentified plane descending toward Air Force One)
  • In the president's cabin I was busy taking notes. He was mostly on the phone with the VP, SecDef Rumsfeld, Gov. Pataki and Mayor Giuliani. 
  • 9:59 the South Tower of the World Trade Center collapses. (Ari points out that transmission on AFOne kept going in and out. That day they realized the technology on the aircraft needed a major upgrade)
  • (1/2)Bush to VP: "We're at war...We're going to take care of this. When we find out who did this, they're not going 2 like me as president."
  • (2/2) Bush to VP: "Somebody's going to pay."
  • 10:07 United Flight 93 crashes into a field in central Pennsylvania.
  • After the 3rd plane hit the Pentagon, we thought there were 3 aircraft missing.  After Flight 93, we thought 2 more attacks coming.
  • The military drills for everything. They kicked in old Cold War training on how 2 protect POTUS. We flew at 45,000 feet in a random pattern.
  • At 10:20 Bush authorized military to go to Def Con 3, the highest level of military alert since the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
  • A call came into the switchboard saying "Angel is next," Bush said. Angel is code word for Air Force One. (When Tillman heard that he posted AF security at the base of the steps leading to the cockpit of AF One)
  • Bush told VP-and I quote-"We're at war Dick and we're going to find out who did this and we're going to kick their ass."
  • "We're going to get the bastards." Bush
  • Bush closed his call with Cheney saying, "It's the new war. It's the faceless coward that attacks."
Fleischer then went on to describe Bush's address to the nation. "Freedom was attacked this morning by a faceless coward, and freedom will be defended...Make no mistake, the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible..."

Note: Keep the other 9/11 victims of Benghazi in your prayers too.