Former Chief of Staff Andrew Card Informs President of 9/11 Attacks

By: Sylvia Villarreal Email
By: Sylvia Villarreal Email

Ten years ago, nearly 3,000 people died in a series of coordinated attacks against the United States. Four commercial jetliners were hijacked and each became a deadly flying bomb.

Two planes struck the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York, another crashed into the Pentagon in Washington D.C. and another went down in field near Shanksville Pennsylvania.
Then President George W Bush learned of the attacks from his Chief of Staff, Andrew Card.

It was a message the world saw President Bush receive from a man who never sought publicity for himself and who still remembers the words he so carefully chose.

Former White House Chief of Staff, Andrew Card recalls, “September 11, 2001 was like a perfect day in America. The sun was shining everywhere and everybody was in a good mood, but there was a buzz in the air. I remember people asking if anybody heard about a plane crash in New York, but then when the president was standing at the door to this classroom and the classroom was a classroom of second graders, the president was standing with the principal and myself when a staffer from the situation room staff at the White House came up to the president and said Sir, it appears a small twin engine prop plane crashed into one of the towers at the World Trade Center in New York City. So that's what the president knew.”

“All of us had a collective reaction that oh, what a horrible accident, the pilot must have had a heart attack or something and then the principal opened the door to the school and the president and the principal went into the classroom. The door shut and that same staffer came to me and said, Sir, it appears it was not a small twin engine prop plane, it was a commercial jet liner and then a nanosecond later, the same staffer came to me and said, oh, my gosh, another plane hit the other tower at the World Trade Center. I knew that the president needed to know. I knew that the president needed to know. I made the decision to pass on two facts, make one editorial comment...opened the door to the classroom the teacher was speaking to the president in the classroom kinda back and forth and there was a press pool gathered. We say a press pool, reporters were gathered at the back of the room and one of them, Ann Compton from ABC News looked up at me and kinda me and kind mouthed a question, "what's up?" and I mouthed a response back to her and I said two planes and she looked back at me and said, "what?" and then there was a break in the conversation in the front of the classroom and that's when I walked up to the president and leaned over and whispered into his right ear, "a second plane hit the second tower, American is under attack," and that was what I said to him. I stood back from him so he couldn't ask me a question, when he did not get up, I went back to the door of the classroom and turned around again and he remained seated in front of the classroom and did exactly the right thing. He didn't introduce fear to those kids and he did nothing to demonstrate fear to the media. That I believe would have translated into the satisfaction of the terrorists around the world. I then left the classroom and proceeded to get things ready for the president,” says Card.

Ten years after delivering that message and getting a footnote in history, Andrew Card is Dean at the Bush School Of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University.

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