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Newly-released handwritten notes from Bush aide show 9/11 unfolding

Fascinating insight behind the scenes 15 years ago

Newly-released handwritten notes from Bush aide show 9/11 unfolding
09 September 2016

It's hard to believe that the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York is almost upon us.

As it happened, you instantly knew that it was an event that would change the world forever, and so it proved, as it ushered in the dawn of the 'War on Terror' and all that that eventually encompassed including, of course, the war in Iraq.

It's fascinating to wonder what it was like to be part of the machinery of government at the time, as it grappled with the initial enormity of proceedings - and these newly-released, handwritten notes offer some incredible insights into the initial reactions of President George W. Bush. They've been given by Ari Fleischer, Bush's press secretary at the time, to Steve Holland of Reuters and Oliver Knox of Yahoo! News - two reporters who were with the President at the time as he famously visited a school in Sarasota, Florida, where he was given the news of the attacks (you can also see some fascinating photos of the President taken in the immediate aftermath of events here). They have uploaded them for everyone to view and read.

It documents the minute-by-minute reactions of Bush and his team, including a host of inaccurate threat reports - to Air Force One and Bush's own Texas ranch, and the bizarre situation of a hair-removal commercial being viewed as it interrupted live coverage on the plane's television screens.

Here are some of the most interesting passages- you can read the notes in full below:

8:45: [actually a minute before the actual tme of the first attack] "Karl [Rove] tells POTUS about first crash while POTUS is on live at school"

9:45: "be sure to set first lady + daughter protected"

9:45: POTUS to VP: "Sounds like we have a minor war going on here... I heard about the Pentagon... we're at war"

10:20: “authorized shoot down if reason” [The President authorises the military to shoot down a hijacked airliner if it was too close to a target]

10:32: "call come in WH [White House] switchboard saying Angel [Air Force One] is next"

10:37: "hair removal commercial comes on"

10:37: "girls [Bush daughters] removed 2 safe house"

10:41: "“How did they [the girls] take it?...[aide:] They wanted 2 stay in their apartments"

10:41: "Andy [Card, White House Chief of Staff]: smells like Os. Bin Laden 2 me"

10:55: "Karl says stde [State Department] bombing may b wrong"

11:00: "to VP: yes you have author. to go to DefCon3 tell our allies"

12:25: “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”'s the new war. It's the faceless coward that attacks"

12:40: “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.”

12:55: [speaking to Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York] "sad day for America...condolences to everyone in New York. Gvt is functioning. We'll come together. God bless."

12:55: [on phone to Donald Rumsfeld]: "Wow. It was an American Airline that hit the Pentagon"

13:05: "high-speed object heading 4 POTUS ranch" [inacurrate report]

13:25: “I want 2 go back home ASAP. I don’t want whoever this is holding me outside of Washington.”

13:35: “this administration will spend whatever is necessary 2 find, hunt down, and destroy whoever did this.”

14:25: [on phone to New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and New York Gov. George Pataki]: "Our sympathies are with you...I know your heart is broken...anything we can do to help you let me know"

14:25: [on phone to New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and New York Gov. George Pataki]: "some possibility of a second wave"

14:58: "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."

16:30: [on phone to First Lady] "I'm coming home... see you at the White House... 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.”

17:05: “We will find these ppl + they will suffer the consequences of taking on this nation,” Bush says. “We will do what it takes. Everyone must understand this will not stand.”

Unspecified: "'The mightiest building in the world is on fire. That's the 21st century war you just witnessed' - looking at Pentagon"


(Images: Ari Fleischer/Rex)