Home Page About Us

President Bush Time Line September 11, 2001 

At 9:03 AM on 11 September 2001, the second airplane hit the South Tower of the World Trade Center. President Bush was in Florida, at the Emma T. Booker Elementary School, listening to children read. Chief of Staff Andrew Card came over and whispered in Bush's ear, "A second plane hit the second tower. America is under attack." 

Bush's motorcade arrives at Booker Elementary

9:00 a.m. – Just after President Bush arrives at Booker Elementary School  advisor Karl Rove

rushes up, takes President Bush aside in a corridor, and tells him about news of the

first WTC crash. Rove says the cause of the crash was unclear. President Bush replies,

 "What a horrible accident!", he is whisked into a holding room and updated on the situation via

 telephone by National Security Advisor Rice. School principal Gwen Tose-Rigell is then

summoned to a room to talk with the President: "He said a commercial plane has hit the

World Trade Center, and we're going to go ahead and go on, we're going on to do the

reading thing anyway."

9:03 a.m. According to Sarasota County Sheriff Bill Balkwill, just after President Bush enters

 a Booker Elementary classroom, a Marine responsible for carrying President Bush's phone

 walks up to Balkwill, who is standing in a nearby side room. While listening to someone talk to

him in his earpiece, the Marine asks, "Can you get me to a television? We're not sure what's going

on, but we need to see a television." Three Secret Service agents, a SWAT member,

the Marine and Balkwill turn on the television in a nearby front office just as

 Flight 175 crashes into the WTC. "We're out of here," the Marine tells Balkwill.

 "Can you get everyone ready?"

Mrs. Daniels' 2nd grade class

9:06 a.m. – President Bush is in a Booker Elementary School second-grader classroom.

His chief of staff, Andrew Card, enters the room and whispers into his ear,

 "A second plane hit the other tower, and America's under attack." President Bush, having

 just been told of the second WTC crash , does not leave the Sarasota, Florida, classroom

 he entered around 9:03. Rather, he stays and listens as 16 Booker Elementary School

 second-graders take turns reading a story called Pet Goat, about a girl's pet goat.

 They are just about to begin reading when Bush is warned of the attack. 

President Bush then picks up the book and reads with the children "for eight or nine minutes."

 In unison, the children read out loud, "The - Pet - Goat. A - girl - got - a - pet - goat.

But - the - goat - did - some - things - that - made - the - girl's - dad - mad." And so on.

President Bush mostly listens, but does ask the children a few questions to encourage them. 

At one point he says, "Really good readers, whew! ... These must be sixth-graders!"

 In the back of the room, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer catches President Bush's eye and

 holds up a pad of paper for him to read, with "DON'T SAY ANYTHING YET" written on it in

big block letters

9:16 a.m. President Bush leaves the Sarasota classroom where he has been since about 9:03.

The children finish their lessons and put away their readers. President Bush advises the children

to stay in school and be good citizens. He also tells the children,

"Thank you all so very much for showing me your reading skills."

One student also asks President Bush a question, and President Bush gives a quick response

on his education policy.  A reporter asks, "Mr. President, are you aware of the reports of the

plane crash in New York? Is there any..." This question is interrupted by an aide who has come

 into the room, saying, "All right. Thank you. If everyone could please step outside."

Bush then says, "We'll talk about it later."  President Bush then tells school principal

Gwen Tose-Rigell, who is in the room, about the terror attacks and why he has to leave.

He then goes into an empty classroom next door and meets with his staff there.

As Director of Communications Dan Bartlett points to news footage of the World Trade Center Towers burning,

President George W. Bush gathers information about the attack at Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Fla.,

 Sept. 11, 2001. Also photographed are Director of White House Situation Room, National Security Council,

Deborah Loewer (directly behind the President) and Senior Advisor Karl Rove (right). White House Photo By Eric Draper

9:30 a.m. – President Bush talks with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice,

who briefs him. He delivers first remarks on the tragedy.

President Bush speaks  in the library of Booker Elementary School

9:30 A.M. EDT THE PRESIDENT: Ladies and gentlemen, this is a difficult moment for America. I, unfortunately, will be going back to Washington after my remarks. Secretary Rod Paige and the Lt. Governor will take the podium and discuss education. I do want to thank the folks here at Booker Elementary School for their hospitality. Today we've had a national tragedy. Two airplanes have crashed into the World Trade Center in an apparent terrorist attack on our country. I have spoken to the Vice President, to the Governor of New York, to the Director of the FBI, and have ordered that the full resources of the federal government go to help the victims and their families, and to conduct a full-scale investigation to hunt down and to find those folks who committed this act. Terrorism against our nation will not stand. And now if you would join me in a moment of silence. May God bless the victims, their families, and America. Thank you very much.


  • 9:43 a.m. President Bush's motorcade arrives at Sarasota's airport and pulls up close to Air Force One. He learns a plane has hit the Pentagon as the motorcade gets near the airport. Bush immediately boards the plane.  Security then does an extra-thorough search of all the baggage for the other passengers, delaying takeoff until 9:55

  • 9:55 a.m. President Bush departs from the Saratoga, Florida, airport on Air Force One without any fighter escort. Air Force One takes off and quickly gains altitude. Once the plane reaches cruising altitude, it flies in circles. 

  • 10:00 a.m. – Aboard Air Force One  President Bush calls Vice President Dick Cheney and puts America's military on a high alert status. Sifts through reports from staff, including erroneous report that a car bomb had struck the State Department. 

  • 10:08 a.m. President Bush gets news that plane has crashed near Pittsburgh.

  • 10:32 a.m. Cheney calls Bush and tells him of a threat to Air Force One. He is told it would take between 40 minutes and 90 minutes to get a protective fighter escort up to Air Force One. His plane turns toward Louisiana soon after.

Vice President Dick Cheney talks with President Bush as senior staff listen from the National Presidential Emergency Operations Center Sept. 11, 2001.

  • 10:55 a.m. Air Force One takes evasive action  there is still no fighter escort

President Bush and staff look out the windows of Air Force One to see  fighter escorts

11:00 a.m. Two F-16s  arrive to escort Air Force One, piloted by Shane Brotherton and

Randy Roberts, from the Texas Air National Guard


  • 11:30 a.m.  six fighters jets are now protecting Air Force One

12:00 a.m. – President Bush arrives at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., where he makes series

 of telephone calls from a general's conference room. Tells Cheney in telephone call,

 "It's the faceless coward that attacks." He also talks to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld

and New York Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. Reporters and others are not allowed to say

where they are.

Air Force One guarded at Barksdale Air Force Base

12:36 p.m. President Bush gives a short speech at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana

 that is taped and played by the networks at 1:04 p.m  he says that all appropriate security

 measures are being taken, including putting the U.S. military on high alert worldwide. He asks

for prayers for those killed or wounded in the attacks and says, "Make no mistake,

the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts.

Freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward. And freedom will be defended."

1:15 p.m. – President Bush departs conference room for Air Force One in a camouflaged Humvee.

 Talks to Cheney again en route to Nebraska air force base and schedules a 4 p.m. meeting of his

national security staff. Also talks to New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Gov. George Pataki.

"I know your heart is broken and your city is strained and anything we can do, let me know," Bush says.

President Bush's basic flight path not including evasive maneuvers

President George W. Bush confers with White House Chief of Staff Andy Card aboard Air Force One Sept. 11, 2001

 White House Photo By Eric Draper

2:50 p.m. – Air Force One lands at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, Nebraska.

President Bush stays on the plane for about 10 minutes before entering United States

Strategic Command at 3:06p.m.  Bush is taken into an underground bunker designed to

withstand a nuclear blast. There, he uses an advanced strategic command and communications

center to teleconference directly with Vice President Cheney, National Security Advisor Rice,

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, and members of the National Security Council.

Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, CIA Director Tenet, and

ransportation Secretary Norman Mineta also participate in the teleconference

The meeting ends at 4:15.

President George W. Bush, White House Chief of Staff Andy Card (left) and Admiral Richard Mies conduct a video

tele-conference at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, Sept. 11, 2001.White House Photo By Eric Draper

  • 4:33 p.m. – President Bush departs for Washington. 

After departing Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, President George W. Bush confers with Vice President Dick Cheney

 from Air Force One during his flight to Andrews Air Force Base Sept. 11, 2001White House Photo By Eric Draper

  • 6:46 p.m. – President Bush arrives at White House to prepare for address to the nation

President George W. Bush returns to the White House followed by White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales and

Counselor Karen Hughes Sept. 11, 2001.White House Photo By Eric Draper

  • 8:30 p.m. – President Bush speaks to nation 

White House Photo By Paul Morton

8:35 p.m. – President Bush meets with his full National Security Council, followed roughly half

an hour later by a meeting with a smaller group of key advisers. President Bush and his advisors

have already decided bin Laden is behind the attacks. CIA Director Tenet says that al-Qaeda and

 the Taliban in Afghanistan are essentially one and the same. President Bush says, tell

the Taliban we're finished with them.

After his address to the nation, President George W. Bush met with his National Security Council. White House Photo

By Eric Draper