For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 11, 2001
Office of the Press Secretary
8:13 P.M. EDT
FLEISCHER: Okay. What I'd like to do is just try
to give you a walk through of the President's day, what he did when he
learned various pieces of information. So this may take me a
moment or two, but let me try to give you a good walk through.
The President arrived just shortly before
9:00 a.m., at the elementary school in Sarasota, when Andy Card
informed him, as the President finished shaking hands in a hallway of
school officials, about the crash of the first plane into the World
The President then proceeded directly into
his hold and spoke with Dr. Condoleezza Rice, who provided him with
that information, as well. The President then went before
you all, in the public event, for the first event with the small
children. And during the course of his speech to the -- his
remarks to the children, Andy Card was notified about the crash of the
Andy approached the President, whispered
into his ear, with the press before and the children before him, about
the crash of the second plane. The President had been intending to
make remarks about the first plane in that session, but he decided to
wait until he could ascertain additional information, given the fact
now that it was not one, but two, crashes, which was an immediate
indication, of course, of the serious nature of this suggesting
Then, as you know, the President returned
to his hold, received additional information from Dr.
Rice. Information was still very sketchy at that point --
this is shortly after 9:00 a.m. And then the President
proceeded -- the decision was made by the President that he would go
and speak to the nation about what transpired. You have the
record of that. And then the President immediately departed for the
The President, upon arrival on Air Force
One, called the Vice President. It was the first of many
calls that he and the Vice President engaged in at one
point. They had an open line between the two of them; the
Vice President being here in the White House, the President, of course,
being in what amounts to an air borne command center at times like
The President spoke with the Vice
President. The President spoke with Secretary Rumsfeld, he
spoke again with the Vice President to receive information and to give
direction. It was on the flight to Louisiana where the
President authorized putting America's military on a higher alert
The President continued to receive
information aboard the plane and some of the information, for example,
about a car bombing at the State Department; then the President was
given the information saying that was an incorrect report, that
erred. The President was given information about the crash
south of Pittsburgh; information continued to come in to the President
about developments in this case.
The Secret Service, of course, was
analyzing the information that came in and the various rumors that were
swirling and taking a very careful look to see what was fact and what
was fiction. The President arrived at Barksdal Air Force
Base, proceeded to the conference room with General Tom Keck, and then
made a series of phone calls from the General's conference
room. And he addressed the nation, as you know.
In the course of one conversation with the
Vice President the President said to him, "it's the faceless coward
that attacks," which became, of course, the statement the President
made to the nation.
The President talked with Senator Schumer
from the General's conference room. He said this was, "a sad
day for America; condolences go to everyone in New York." He
spoke again with Secretary Rumsfeld; spoke again with the Vice
President. He departed at approximately 1:15 p.m. for Air
Force One in what is called an up-armored Humvee
vehicle. It's a camouflaged vehicle. On the
tarmac at the airport there were armed security police with dogs that
were there when we arrived and when we departed.
On the flight to Nebraska, the President
again spoke with the Vice President. He called the meeting
of the National Security Council for 4:00 p.m., upon his arrival,
instructed the Vice President to have all the proper people
assembled. He made clear that he wanted to get back to
Washington as quickly as was possible.
He spoke with Mayor Giuliani, and Pataki,
together. He said that, "Our sympathies are with you and the
people of New York." He said, "I know your heart is broken
and your city is strained, and anything we can do, let me know and we
The President arrived at approximately
3:10 p.m. to the Command Center in Nebraska. He had a one
hour and five minute meeting with his national security
team. And during the course of that meeting, the President
said -- at the very end of the meeting the President said, "We will
find these people and they will suffer the consequences of taking on
this nation. We will do what it takes. No one is
going to diminish the spirit of this country."
The President also, at the security
meeting, stressed how grateful he was to have heard from so many world
leaders who sent him written communications, standing with the United
States and expressing their outrage at the terrorist
attacks. The President, on the flight home, spoke with Mrs.
Bush -- he had spoken with her earlier in the day, too, upon departure
from Florida -- said, "I'm coming home, see you at the White House."
And that's the chronology. And
the President arrived back here, went immediately into the study just
off the Oval Office, to work on his speech for tonight. He
met again with his national security team, and then he returned to the
study to work on the speech.
Q Ari, can you rule
out that there was any decision to shoot down the plane over
Pennsylvania? There are still continuing questions that the
government may have decided that that was necessary. Do you
have any information about that crash?
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't have
information about the cause of that crash.
Q But can you rule
out that it was shot down by the U.S. military?
MR. FLEISCHER: That would be
the first I've heard of anything like that. I have not heard
anything like that at all.
Q At what point did
the President really -- did the gravity of the attack on the government
excel? When did he hear of the Pentagon, the plane going
into the Pentagon? And did that change the picture for the
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think
the picture changed for the President immediately upon hearing of the
second crash into the World Trade Center. I think when information
came in about the first crash, I think the natural reaction was, was it
a plane that went off course, what could this be, is this terrorism?
As soon as Andy whispered in his ear about
the second crash, there was no doubt in the President's mind.
Q Can you tell us a
little bit about how the speech was put together? And was it
Condi Rice that sort of wrote it?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President,
on the flight back from Nebraska, talked to several staff members on
Air Force One about what he wanted to say.
Q Would that be
like, Rove, Card, yourself?
MR. FLEISCHER: It was -- I
think at that point it was Andy and me. And we talked to
Karen. The President and Karen directly
spoke. The President conveyed to Karen what it was he wanted
to say. Mike Gerson and Karen wrote the remarks.
Q And what was his
mood as the news continued to roll in? And did he see -- at
what point did he see the pictures? Since he was in the air
all the time, the things that rocked people as they saw picture after
picture -- did he see those?
MR. FLEISCHER: He was able to
watch those pictures from the air. Terry, I've said this before about
the President --
Q He could watch
from the air? I'm sorry.
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, he could
watch from the air. I've said this before about the
President, he is even-keeled at all times. I have really
never seen him get very high, very low. He just has a steely
FLEISCHER: Resolve. I mean, it really is a
question of -- and you've heard it in his public statements today, that
those who committed this crime on the United States will pay the
price. It's just tough determination and resolve.
In the speech tonight, I think what you're
about to hear is a message of reassurance and resolve. In
particular tonight, he wants to talk about the tragedy that has
befallen people's families, those who have lost their lives.
Q Most Americans
are just downright pissed-off. Have you seen at any moment
in him just sort of like a real gut-wrenching emotional reaction to all
this? I know you're saying his resolve and that
he's pretty even-keeled, but was there ever a moment where he really
sort of showed the frustration I think that everyone is feeling?
MR. FLEISCHER: Like I said, it
was really steely resolve. I mean, he's had a -- he had some
tough words for those who did it.
Q Ari, why did he
go out to Omaha?
MR. FLEISCHER: And Louisiana --
I think you can ask that same question. As I tried to give
you a hint in my remarks about the Secret Service assessing various
information that was coming in -- including one report that said that
the plane that went down near Pittsburgh, went down near Camp David --
for obvious security reasons.
Q Can you give us
any kind of sense of how close we are to finding out who did this or
how long we think it might take to find out any information, that
MR. FLEISCHER: No, and I'm not
sure that I'm going to be in a position to share that information as
the White House and the intelligence team develop it. You
know, that information is obviously being collected now and it's
something I wouldn't indicate publicly, especially.
Q Are there strong
leads, Ari? Are there strong leads as to who may be
MR. FLEISCHER: Dick, tonight is
not the night for the White House to talk about that. The
President's message tonight is going to be focused on the
victims. I think more on that privately later.
Q Can I ask you a
question about this morning and about the rest of the
week? First, about the rest of the week. What
should we expect the see? Where will the President be
tomorrow and the rest of the week? What will his schedule be
MR. FLEISCHER: We're revisiting
the President's schedule. There will be changes to it that
reflect the tragedy, of course. And I think you can
anticipate that he'll be in Washington for the next several
days. And we'll keep you advised as changes are
made. But the President's schedule is going to reflect the
gravity and the solemnity of this event.
Q -- New York?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'll keep you
Q Would we be going
too far if we said he's cancelled his public schedule for the rest of
the week to focus on this?
MR. FLEISCHER: That would go
Q Okay. And then this morning, when
Andy Card told him about the first accident, was Andy Card or Condi
Rice or any of those aware of the hijackings? What did they
know when they --
MR. FLEISCHER: No, at that
point they were not.
Q What changes will
we see, in terms of the security around government buildings and
particularly around the White House over the next week or so?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, obviously,
there has been a heightened state of alert throughout the government
and I'll try to keep you updated to the best degree I can on the status
of that. But, obviously, the President has returned to
Q Two questions,
Ari. At what point did he decide to go to the highest alert,
DEP CON alert? And then --
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, actually,
DEP CON 3, it's not the highest.
Q At what point did
he decide to go there?
MR. FLEISCHER: The flight to
Q In mid-air?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes.
Q And so that was
made in mid-air?
FLEISCHER: Correct. The President authorized the
Vice President to make that happen.
Q Did it seem
possible at that point that there were many more
attacks? Was that --
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes.
Q Were you ever
told that -- well, I don't want to know where the daughters are if you
don't want to tell us. Is the President comfortable with
where his daughters are, and are they separate or are they together?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President
has full faith in the Secret Service, in all that they do, for himself,
for his wife, for his daughters. And they were taken to a
secure location, I can tell you that -- I can't tell you, obviously,
Q Are they together
or are they separate? Are they with any --
MR. FLEISCHER: No, they're
Q Are they with any
MR. FLEISCHER: I really don't
want to go further.
Q Okay. And what about his
parents? Are they in a secure location?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not going to
MR. FLEISCHER: -- the
Q Ari, on which
flight did the President watch the pictures?
MR. FLEISCHER: All flights.
Q On leaving
Florida for Louisiana?
MR. FLEISCHER: Louisiana to
Nebraska, Nebraska back to --
Q Did he have any
contact with congressional leaders during this?
MR. FLEISCHER: He authorized a
series of contacts with congressional leaders.
Q What does that
MR. FLEISCHER: That he told his
staff and the Vice President to talk to the congressional leaders.
He spoke to the New Yorkers today, and to
Q Schumer and who
MR. FLEISCHER: Schumer, Pataki,
Giuliani, they each called him.
Q What about Mrs.
MR. FLEISCHER: As I indicated,
they each called him.
Q Okay. Did he come back to the White
House because he was told by the Secret Service that there is zero
risk, or did he take some risk in coming back to the White House?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President
wanted to come back to the White House. He also takes into account the
advice of the Secret Service. But at this point, obviously
coming back to the White House is the safe thing to do.
Q With so much
focus on the victims in the speech as you've described it, what about
options out there for the President? What kind of resolve
will he talk about in his speech?
MR. FLEISCHER: He'll actually
begin in three minutes, so you might want to --
Q Go and get our
Q Ari, any idea how
late we're going to be able to stay tonight, overnight?
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me know what
your request is and I mean, I think today is the day we try to help
everybody, so let me know.
Q Ari, somebody
might have asked you already, but the plan to move from Air Force base
or move around, was that like an old prevailing plan for -- I mean, is
that pre-existing, long held --
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, there are,
obviously, emergency plans that get taken off the shelf. And
you can presume what was done today was in accordance with emergency
plans. But the decision to go to Louisiana and then go to
Nebraska were based on obvious security concerns that involved the
situation and the President.
Q Thank you.