Andrew Card on 9/11 [Full interview]

Uploaded by AggieMedia on 06.09.2011

My goal as chief of staff when I was named by President George W. Bush to be his chief
of staff, was to be a chief of staff when no one knew his name so I just wanted to be
kind of inside trying to make the trains run on, try to make each other present, had all
he needed to make tough decisions. My anonymity changed on a faithful day that
none of should forget, not because I became known but because of a tragic incident and
that was when planes crashed into the buildings in the United States.
We were at a school in Sarasota Florida, the Emma E. Booker School, it was an elementary
school. The President had arrived at the school and
as we were walking into the holding room, which was a converted classroom into a White
House command center. There was a buzz in the air and I remember two people in particular
kind of asking the question, did anybody hear about a plane crash in New York?
One of them was Kyle Rowe the other one was Dan Margaret. The President when we arrived
at that holding room, that was a converted classroom.
He got on the phone with Condalisa Rice who was his national security advisor and I didn’t
hear that conversation. As the president was getting ready to go into
a classroom filled with very young second graders and talk about mentoring and leaving
no child behind in education and the importance of following through on an education for young
people so they wouldn’t be left behind. A staffer from the situation room came up
to the principal of the school and to me as we stood at the door and said Sir it appears
a small twin-engine prop plane crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center
in New York City. Our collective response was, what a horrible
accident, the pilot must have had a heart attack or something.
And then the principle of the school opened the door of the classroom and the president
went into the classroom. When the door was shut and I was standing
at the door that same staffer came to me and said to me Sir it appears it was not a small
twin-engine prop plane, it was a commercial jetliner.
In my mind flashed to the fear that must have been by the passengers on that plane.
They had to know it wasn’t gaining altitude, I don’t know why but that’s what my mind
flashed to. And then a Nano second later that same staffer
came to me and said Oh my gosh, another plane hit the other tower of the World Trade Center.
I knew then, believe it or not thought about Osama Bin Laden, UBL we called him, I knew
it wasn’t a coincidence, I knew it wasn’t an accident, and I thought it was some kind
of an attack. And I knew I had to tell the president and
in fact I performed a test: Does the President need to know? and the answer was obviously
yes. I made a decision to pass on two facts and
make one editorial comment. I opened the door to the classroom and walked
in and it was unusual for me to enter a room after the President had gone in.
I saw the President sitting in front of the second graders, the teacher of the class was
sitting beside the president. I saw the press pool in the back of the room,
Ann Compton from NBC news looked up at me and kind of mouthed, what’s up? and I responded
back to her, two planes, and she looked at me and said, two what?
And then there was a break at the conversion in front of the classroom and I walked up
to the president, I leaned over and whispered over to his right ear: a second plane hit
the second tower, America is under attack. I then stood back from the President so that
he couldn’t ask me a question, and then when the President did not get up, I moved
to the door of the classroom and looked around again, and I saw in my peripheral vision the
secretary of education Rod Page and one of the White House staffers Sandy Cress who was
in charge of education and the principal of school.
Of to my right I saw Ari Fleischer whispering into the ear some of the reporters of the
press pool and I opened the door and left the classroom.
The President stayed there and I was really glad he did. He did nothing to introduce fear
into those young students. He didn’t demonstrate fear to the media
that would have translated it to the satisfaction of terrorists all around the world.
I was also glad that he stayed there because it gave me time to get work done before the
President came back into that holding room. So I was able to tell the staff: Get the FBI
director on the phone, get a line open to the vice-president, get a line open to the
situation room at the White House, get the crew back on Air Force One…
We weren’t planning to take off for several hours later.
…Get the secret service to turn the motorcade around because we’re going to have to leave
the school, get some remarks written from the President because we’ve got a thousand
people right next door and the President has to tell them something.
And then the President walked into the room and sure enough everyone gravitated towards
the President when he walked into that holding room and sure enough the first thing the President
said: Get the FBI director on the phone. And we were able to say: He’s right here
sir. I will never forget that day; it was the day
that changed America. I don’t want anybody else to forget that
day, not because I whispered in the President’s ear, but because we lost an awful lot of American
citizens that day. We found lots of policemen and firemen that
answered the call to duty and ended up sacrificing their lives.
So don’t forget the sacrifices that day and don’t forget that it changed America.