Just released handwritten notes show what was going on in the mind and heart of former President George W. Bush on the morning of September 11, 2001 as the gravity of the terrorist attacks weighed on him.
The notes, taken by then press secretary Ari Fleischer in real-time aboard Air Force one, were given to Yahoo News’ Olivier Knox and Reuters’ Steve Holland who also accompanied the president that day for his trip to read to school children in Florida.
Yahoo News published digital versions of the notes on Sunday.
The notes started at 8:45 a.m. when Bush adviser Karl Rove told the president about the first crash and skipped ahead to 9:45 a.m. when what was happening started to become more clear.
A summary of the hard to read text is posted below the photo.
“Sounds like we have a minor war going on here. I heard about the Pentagon,” he said.
Shortly thereafter Bush told leaders in Congress “We’re at war,” Yahoo News reported.
An entry at 10:20 a.m. notes Bush “authorized shoot down if reason” — a reference to the president deciding that, if a hijacked airliner were dangerously on course with a potential target, fighter planes could be allowed to fire. The false threat to Air Force One — “Angel is next” — comes in via the White House switchboard at 10:32 a.m.
Five minutes later, the hair-removal commercial comes on. That’s also when Fleischer records that the Bush daughters are safe: “girls removed 2 safe house.”
The 10:37 a.m. entry is also when Bush asks White House Chief of Staff Andy Card — best remembered for whispering word of the second attack into the president’s ear in an elementary school classroom at the Florida stop — about Barney. “He’s nipping at the heels of Osama bin Laden right now,” Card replies. Officials get word that a plane “has crashed in the vicinity of Camp David, but Rove quickly corrects that to “50 [miles] outside of Pittsburgh.”
At 10:41 a.m., Bush learns that his daughters have been moved to a more secure location. “How did they take it?” he asks. “They wanted 2 stay in their apartments,” an aide replies.
At 10:55 a.m., Rove lets other officials know that reports of a car bomb at the State Department were wrong.
Bush makes another momentous decision at 11:00 a.m., taking U.S. forces to the increased DEFCON 3 state of readiness.
At 12:25 p.m., speaking to Cheney from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, Bush says, “I think it’s important 4 ppl 2 see the gov is functioning because TV shows our nation has been blasted and bombed. Gov is not chaotic. It’s functioning smoothly. We’re going 2 get the bastards.” And, later, the president declares, “It’s the new war. It’s the faceless coward that [attacks].”
At 12:40 p.m. Bush announces, “I can’t wait to find out who did it. It’s going to take a while + we’re not going 2 have a little slap on the wrist crap.”
The notes show the resolve of the president to get justice for America.
“This administration will spend whatever is necessary 2 find, hunt down, and destroy whoever did this,” he said.
And he was not about the let the terrorists keep him from his duty.
“I want 2 go back home ASAP,” Bush said at 1:25 p.m. “I don’t want whoever this is holding me outside of Washington.”
“We need 2 get back to Wash. We don’t need some tinhorn terrorist to scare us off. The Am ppl want 2 know where their dang P is,” he said at 2:58 p.m.
Around 4:30 p.m. he had resolved to return to Washington, and spoke to his wife Laura to let her know.
“I’m coming home. See you at the White House,” he told her. “Love you … go on home.”
“If I’m in the WH and there’s a plane coming my way, all I can say is I hope I read my bible that day,” he added.
Bush spoke to his vice president Dick Cheney at 5:05 p.m. and again expressed his resolve to avenge his country and its citizens.
“We will find these ppl + they will suffer the consequences of taking on this nation,” Bush said. “We will do what it takes. Everyone must understand this will not stand.”
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