The Center for Cooperative Research
U:     P:    
Not registered yet? Register here
Current timeline only
Advanced Search

Main Menu
History Engine Sub-Menu
Miscellaneous Sub-Menu
End of Main Menu

Volunteers Needed!
Submit a timeline entry
Donate: If you think this site is important, please help us out financially. We need your help!
Email updates

  View mode (info):
  Ordering (info):
  Time period (info):


civil liberties
Saudis, Bush
Anthrax attacks
Advance info;kind
Afghan war prep
Advance info;time
Israeli spies
Click here to join: Suggest changes to existing data, add new data to the website, or compile your own timeline. More Info >>


Bushs movements and sayings on 9/11


Project: Complete 911 Timeline

Export to XML Printer Friendly View Email to a Friend Increase Text Size Decrease Text Size

12:36 p.m.

       Bush gives a short speech that is taped and played by the networks at 1:04 p.m. [“Just after 12:30,” Salon, 9/12/01 (B), 12:36, Washington Times, 10/8/02] In a speech at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, President Bush announces that security measures are being taken and says: “Make no mistake, the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts.” [MSNBC, 9/22/01, CNN, 9/12/01, New York Times, 9/12/01] He also states, “Freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward. And freedom will be defended.” [ABC News 9/11/02]

(12:58 p.m.)

       Bush spends most of his time at Barksdale Air Force base arguing on the phone with Cheney and others over where he should go next. “A few minutes before 1 p.m.,” he agrees to fly to Nebraska. As earlier (see 10:32 a.m.), there are rumors of a “credible terrorist threat” to Air Force One. [Telegraph 12/16/01]

(6:00 a.m.)

       President Bush has just spent the night at Colony Beach and Tennis Resort on Longboat Key, Florida. Surface-to-air missiles have been placed on the roof of the resort. [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/10/02] Bush wakes up around 6:00 a.m. and is preparing for his morning jog. [MSNBC, 10/27/02, New York Times, 9/16/01 (B), Telegraph, 12/16/01] A van occupied by men of Middle Eastern descent pull up to the Colony stating they have a “poolside” interview with the president. They are turned away for not having an appointment. [Longboat Observer, 9/26/01] Was this an assassination attempt modeled on the one used on Afghani leader Ahmed Massoud two days earlier? [Time 8/4/02 (B)]

(6:31 a.m.)

The Colony Beach and Tennis Resort, where Bush stays the night before 9/11.
Bush goes for a four-mile jog around the golf course at the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort. [Washington Post 1/27/02; MSNBC 10/27/02; Washington Times 10/7/02]

(8:00 a.m.)

       Bush sits down for his daily intelligence briefing. “The President's briefing appears to have included some reference to the heightened terrorist risk reported throughout the summer” but contained nothing serious enough to call National Security Adviser Rice. The briefing ends at about 8:20. [Telegraph 12/16/01]

(8:35 a.m.)

Air National Guard troops at NORAD's Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) try to locate hijacked aircraft.
Bush's motorcade leaves for Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida. [8:30, Washington Post, 1/27/02, 8:30, BBC, 9/1/02, 8:35, Sarasota Magazine, 9/19/01, 8:39, Washington Times, 10/7/02] He said farewell to the management at the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort at 8:20. [Telegraph, 12/16/01] Note that an early report that as Bush is leaving the resort, a reporter asks him, “Do you know what's going on in New York?” [ABC News, 9/11/01], appears to be mistaken.

(After 8:46 a.m.)

       Bush will say in a speech later that evening: “Immediately following the first attack, I implemented our government's emergency response plans.” [White House, 9/11/01] But in fact, seeing the images on television, lower-level officials activate the Conplan—the Interagency Domestic Terrorism Concept of Operations Plan. The plan, created in response to an executive order by President Clinton, details the responsibility of seven federal agencies if a terrorist attack occurs. It gives the FBI the responsibility for activating the plan and alerting other agencies. [Wall Street Journal 3/22/04]

(8:46 a.m.)

       President Bush is traveling through Sarasota, Florida in a motorcade when the first WTC crash occurs (see(8:35 a.m.) and (Between 8:46-8:55 a.m.)). According to the 9/11 Commission, at this time, “no one in the White House or traveling with the President knew that [Flight 11] had been hijacked. Immediately afterward, duty officers at the White House and Pentagon began notifying senior officials what had happened.” However, supposedly no one notifies Bush about the crash until his motorcade reaches its destination, even though there's a highly secure phone in his vehicle, and others in the motorcade are being notified. Not even the Jane Garvey, the head of the FAA, nor her deputy have been told of a confirmed hijacking before they learn about the crash from the television. [Independent Commission Report 6/17/04]

(Between 8:46-8:55 a.m.)

In this map, the yellow star is roughly where Bush's motorcade is when Flight 11 crashes at 8:46, and the orange star is where he is when told about the crash a few minutes later.
When Flight 11 hits the WTC at 8:46, Bush's motorcade is crossing the John Ringling Causeway on the way to Booker Elementary from the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort on Longboat Key. [Washington Times, 10/8/02] Sarasota Magazine claims that Bush is on Highway 301, just north of Main Street when he is told that a plane had crashed in New York City. [Sarasota Magazine, 9/19/01] Around the same time, news photographer Eric Draper is riding in another car in the motorcade with Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, and overhears Fleischer say on a cell phone, “Oh, my God, I don't believe it. A plane just hit the World Trade Center.” Fleischer is told he will be needed on arrival to discuss reports of the crash. [Christian Science Monitor, 9/17/01, Albuquerque Tribune, 9/10/02] Fleischer is told this “just minutes”after the first news reports. [MSNBC, 10/29/02] Congressman Dan Miller also says he is told about the crash just before meeting Bush at Booker at 8:55. [Sarasota Magazine, 9/19/01] Some reporters waiting for him to arrive also learn of the crash just minutes after it happens. [CBS, 9/11/02 (B)] It would make sense that Bush is told about the crash immediately and at the same time that others hear about it. Yet Bush and others claim he isn't told until he arrives at the school.

(8:55 a.m.)

Bush's motorcade arrives at Booker Elementary.
Bush's motorcade arrives at Booker Elementary School. [8:46, ABC News, 9/11/02, 8:55, Washington Times, 10/7/02, 8:55, Sarasota Magazine, 9/19/01, “just before 9:00,” Telegraph, 12/16/01, “shortly before 9:00,” Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/10/02, “just before 9:00,” New York Times, 9/16/01 (B), 9:00, Albuquerque Tribune, 9/10/02] The trip is said to take 20 minutes, which confirms he arrives around 8:55, if it is true he left around 8:35. [New York Times 9/16/01 (B); St. Petersburg Times 9/8/02 (B); MSNBC 10/29/02]

(Before 8:55 a.m.)

White House Situation Room Director Deborah Loewer.
Captain Deborah Loewer, director of the White House Situation Room, is traveling in Bush's motorcade toward a Saratoga elementary school. She receives a message from her deputy in the White House Situation Room about the first WTC crash. As soon as the motorcade reaches the school, she runs from her car to Bush's car, and passes the message on to Bush. [Catholic Telegraph, 12/7/01, AP, 11/26/01] However, it appears Bush already knows (see (Between 8:46-8:55 a.m.)). Note that Bush maintains it is Karl Rove who tells him a few minutes later.

(9:00 a.m.)

       National Security Advisor Rice later claims she is in her White House office when she hears about the first WTC crash just before 9:00. She recalls, “I thought to myself, what an odd accident.” She speaks to Bush at 9:00 on the telephone, and tells him that a twin-engine plane has struck the WTC tower. She says, “That's all we know right now, Mr. President.” Despite her title of National Security Advisor, she is apparently unaware that NORAD has been aware there are at least two hijackings in progress for over 15 minutes. She goes ahead with her usual national security staff meeting (see (After 9:03 a.m.)). [Newsweek 12/31/01]

(Between 8:55 and 9:00 a.m.)

Karl Rove [Reuters], Andrew Card [AP], and Dan Bartlett.
Just after the WTC crash, the beepers of politicians' aides are going off with news of the first WTC crash as Bush arrives and enters Booker Elementary School. According to photographer Eric Draper, standing nearby, Bush advisor Karl Rove rushes up, takes Bush aside in a corridor, and tells him about the calamity. Rove says the cause of the crash was unclear. Bush replies, “What a horrible accident!” Bush also suggests the pilot may have had a heart attack. [Daily Mail, 9/8/02] Dan Bartlett, White House Communications Director, also says he is there when Bush is told: “[Bush] being a former pilot, had kind of the same reaction, going, was it bad weather? And I said no, apparently not.” [ABC News, 9/11/02] One account explicitly says that Rove tells Bush the WTC has been hit by a large commercial airliner. [Telegraph, 12/16/01] However, Bush later remembers Rove saying it appeared to be an accident involving a small, twin-engine plane. [Washington Post, 1/27/02] In a later recollection, Bush recalls that it is chief of staff Andrew Card who first warns him and says, “ ‘Here's what you're going to be doing; you're going to meet so-and-so, such-and-such.’And Andy Card says, ‘By the way, an aircraft flew into the World Trade Center.’ ” [Washington Times, 10/7/02] Says a reporter who was standing nearby, “From the demeanor of the President, grinning at the children, it appeared that the enormity of what he had been told was taking a while to sink in.” [Daily Mail, 9/8/02] [“Shortly before 9:00,” Daily Mail, 9/8/02, “just before 9:00,” Telegraph, 12/16/01] In fact, Bush has already been told about the crash twice before this (see (Between 8:46-8:55 a.m.) and (Before 8:55 a.m.)). He should also be aware that NORAD has known since 8:40, if not before, that Flight 11 has been hijacked, and since 8:43 that Flight 175 has been hijacked. The New York Times points out that flight controllers learn Flight 77 has been hijacked “within a few minutes” of 8:48. [New York Times, 9/15/01 (C)] Is Bush and his aides putting on a charade to pretend he doesn't know there is a national emergency? If so, why?

(Between 8:55-9:00 a.m.)

Booker Elementary principal Gwen Tose-Rigell.
Just after Bush arrives at Booker Elementary School and is briefly told of the WTC crash, he is whisked into a holding room and updated on the situation via telephone by National Security Advisor Rice. [Christian Science Monitor, 9/17/01, Time, 9/12/01] Rice later claims, “He said, what a terrible, it sounds like a terrible accident. Keep me informed.” [ABC News, 9/11/02] 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.” [AP, 8/19/02 (D)] One local reporter notes that at this point, “He could and arguably should have left Emma E. Booker Elementary School immediately, gotten onto Air Force One and left Sarasota without a moment's delay.” [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/12/01 (B)] Why doesn't he? Note that CIA Director Tenet has already been told it was terrorism (see (After 8:46)) and Bush certainly should have been told by Rice of the three known hijackings at this time, if he hasn't been told already. How could Bush continue to think there is only a single-plane accident?

(9:01 a.m.)

       Bush later makes the following statement: “And I was sitting outside the classroom waiting to go in, and I saw an airplane hit the tower—the TV was obviously on, and I use to fly myself, and I said, ‘There's one terrible pilot.’ And I said, ‘It must have been a horrible accident.’ But I was whisked off there—I didn't have much time to think about it.” [CNN, 12/4/01] He has repeated the story on other occasions. [White House, 1/5/02, CBS, 9/11/02] However, it has been noted that Bush doesn't have access to a television until 15 or so minutes later. [Washington Times, 10/7/02] A Boston Herald article later says, “Think about that. Bush's remark implies he saw the first plane hit the tower. But we all know that video of the first plane hitting did not surface until the next day. Could Bush have meant he saw the second plane hit—which many Americans witnessed? No, because he said that he was in the classroom when Card whispered in his ear that a second plane hit.” The article points out that Bush had told the story more than once, and asks, “How could the commander-in-chief have seen the plane fly into the first building—as it happened?” [Boston Herald, 10/22/02] A Bush spokesman later calls Bush's comments “just a mistaken recollection.” [Wall Street Journal 3/22/04]

(9:03 a.m.)

       According to Sarasota County Sheriff Bill Balkwill, just after Bush enters a Booker Elementary classroom, a Marine responsible for carrying 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?” [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/10/02] So apparently some of Bush's security want him to leave the school immediately—why does he stay until 9:34?

(9:03-9:06 a.m.)

Bush meets teacher Sandra Kay Daniels.
Bush enters Sandra Kay Daniels' second-grade class for a photo-op to promote Bush's education policies. [Daily Mail, 9/8/02] Numerous reporters who travel with the president, as well as members of the local media, watch from the back of the room. [AP, 8/19/02 (D)] Altogether there about 150 people in the room, 16 of them the children in the class. He is introduced to the children and poses for a number of staged pictures. The teacher then leads the students through some reading exercises (video footage shows this lasts about three minutes). [Salon, 9/12/01 (B)] Bush later claims that while he is doing this lesson, he is thinking what he will say about the WTC crash. “I was concentrating on the program at this point, thinking about what I was going to say. Obviously, I felt it was an accident. I was concerned about it, but there were no alarm bells.” [Washington Times, 10/7/02] The children are just getting their books from under their seats to read a story together when Chief of Staff Andrew Card comes in to tell Bush of the second WTC crash (see (9:06 a.m.)). [Daily Mail, 9/8/02] [9:02, Washington Times, 10/8/02, 9:03, Telegraph, 12/16/01, 9:04, Daily Mail, 9/8/02, according to photographer Eric Draper, who is in the room] Note that Card comes in at the conclusion of the first half of the planned lesson, and “[seizes] a pause in the reading drill to walk up to Mr. Bush's seat.” [Washington Times, 10/7/02, Washington Times, 10/8/02] Why doesn't Bush take this opportune moment to leave the room?

(9:06-9:16 a.m.)

       Bush, having just been told of the second WTC crash (see (9:06 a.m.)), 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 The Pet Goat, from the book “Reading Mastery 2, Storybook 1.” It's a simple story about a girl's pet goat. [AFP, 9/7/02, Editor and Publisher, 7/2/04] They are just about to begin reading when Bush is warned of the attack. One account says that the classroom is then silent for about 30 seconds, maybe more. Bush then picks up the book and reads with the children “for eight or nine minutes.” [Tampa Tribune, 9/1/02] 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. Bush mostly listens, but does ask the children a few questions to encourage them. [Washington Times, 10/7/02] At one point he says, “Really good readers, whew! … These must be sixth-graders!” [Time, 9/12/01] In the back of the room, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer catches 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. [Washington Times 10/7/02] CNN reported in 1999, “Only the president has the authority to order a civilian aircraft shot down.” [CNN, 10/26/99] The pilot of one of the planes flying to catch Flight 175 notes that it wouldn't have mattered if he caught up with it, because only Bush could order a shootdown, and Bush is at a public event at the time. [Cape Cod Times 8/21/02] In actual fact, by 9/11 Defense Secretary Rumsfeld also has the authority to order a shootdown, but he also claims to be out of contact. [New York Observer, 6/17/04] (Note that three articles claim that Bush leaves the classroom at 9:12. [New York Times, 9/16/01 (B), Telegraph, 12/16/01, Daily Mail, 9/8/02] However, the video lasts for “at least seven additional minutes” and ends before Bush leaves. [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/04] The above time is a rough guess based mostly on the Tampa Tribune estimate). Much of this video footage is shown in Michael Moore's 2004 movie, Fahrenheit 911. [New York Times 6/18/04 (C)]

(9:06 a.m.)

Andrew Card tells Bush the second WTC tower has been hit. See a video of Bush's reaction here:
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.” [New York Times, 9/16/01 (B)] [9:05, New York Times, 9/16/01 (B), 9:05, Telegraph, 12/16/01, 9:05, Albuquerque Tribune, 9/10/02, 9:07, Washington Times, 10/8/02, ABC News reporter Ann Compton, who is in the room, says she is struck “So much so that I [write] it down in my reporter's notebook, by my watch, 9:07 a.m.,” ABC News, 9/11/02] Intelligence expert James Bamford describes Bush's reaction: “Immediately [after Card speaks to Bush] an expression of befuddlement passe[s] across the President's face. Then, having just been told that the country was under attack, the Commander in Chief appear[s] uninterested in further details. He never ask[s] if there had been any additional threats, where the attacks were coming from, how to best protect the country from further attacks…. Instead, in the middle of a modern-day Pearl Harbor, he simply turn[s] back to the matter at hand: the day's photo op.” [Body of Secrets, James Bamford, 4/02 edition, p. 633] Bush continues listening to the goat story. Then, in an event noticeable in its absence, as one newspaper put it, “For some reason, Secret Service agents [do] not bustle him away.” [Globe and Mail, 9/12/01] Bush later says of the experience, “I am very aware of the cameras. I'm trying to absorb that knowledge. I have nobody to talk to. I'm sitting in the midst of a classroom with little kids, listening to a children's story and I realize I'm the Commander in Chief and the country has just come under attack.”[Telegraph, 12/16/01] Bush continues to listen to the goat story for about ten more minutes (see (9:06-9:16 a.m.)). The reason given is that, “Without all the facts at hand, George Bush ha[s] no intention of upsetting the schoolchildren who had come to read for him.” [MSNBC, 10/29/02] Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport is only three and a half miles away, and in fact the elementary school was chosen as the location for a photo op partly because of its closeness to the airport. [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/12/02] Why doesn't the Secret Service move Bush away from his known location?

(Between 9:16-9:29 a.m.)

Bush in a holding room before giving his speech. Communications director Dan Bartlett points to the TV, and the clock reads 9:25.
Bush works with his staff to prepare a speech he will deliver at 9:29. He intermittently watches the television coverage in the room. [Albuquerque Tribune, 9/10/02] He also speaks on the phone to advisors, first calling National Security Advisor Rice, then Vice President Cheney, then New York Governor George Pataki. [Daily Mail, 9/8/02] Bush often turns to look at a TV screen. He declares, “We're at war.” [BBC, 9/1/02] This would have been a good time to discuss if hijacked planes should be shot down or not, but apparently that conversation doesn't happen until after 9:55.

(9:16 a.m.)

Bush with his Pet Goat book in Sandra Kay Daniels' elementary school classroom.
Bush leaves the Sarasota classroom where he has been since about 9:03. The children finish their lessons and put away their readers. [Sarasota Magazine, 9/19/01] Bush advises the children to stay in school and be good citizens. [Tampa Tribune, 9/1/02, St. Petersburg Times, 9/8/02 (B)] He also tells the children, “Thank you all so very much for showing me your reading skills.” [ABC News, 9/11/02] One student also asks Bush a question, and Bush gives a quick response on his education policy. [New York Post, 9/12/02] 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.” [CBS, 9/11/02 (B)] Bush then tells school principal Gwen Tose-Rigell, who is in the room, about the terror attacks and why he has to leave. [Washington Times, 10/7/02] He then goes into an empty classroom next door and meets with his staff there. [ABC News, 9/11/02] Bush's program with the children was supposed to start at 9:00 and end 20 minutes later. [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/16/01] So he leaves the classroom only a couple of minutes earlier than planned, if at all (as the goodbyes and questions on the way out may have taken another minute or two).

9:29 a.m.

President Bush speaks at 9:29 in the library of Booker Elementary School.
Still inside Booker Elementary School, Bush gives a brief speech in front of about 200 students, plus many teachers and reporters. [Daily Mail, 9/8/02] He says, “Today we've had a national tragedy. Two airplanes have crashed into the World Trade Center in an apparent terrorist attack on our country” (see the text of the speech here [Federal News Service, 9/11/01]). The talk occurs at exactly the time and place stated in his publicly announced advance schedule—making Bush a possible terrorist target. [MSNBC 9/22/01; Washington Post 9/12/01; CNN 9/12/01; New York Times 9/12/01; Federal News Service 9/10/01]

(9:29 a.m.)

       Captain Charles Leidig is in command of the National Military Command Center (NMCC), “the military's worldwide nerve center.” [CNN, 9/4/02] Telephone links are established with the National Military Command Center (NMCC) located inside the Pentagon (but on the opposite side from where the Pentagon explosion will happen), Canada's equivalent command center, Strategic Command, theater commanders, and federal emergency-response agencies. An Air Threat Conference Call is initiated and lasts for eight hours. At one time or another, President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, key military officers, leaders of the FAA and NORAD, the White House, and Air Force One are heard on the open line. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02, 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] NORAD command director Captain Michael Jellinek claims this happens “immediately” after the second WTC hit. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] But the 9/11 Commission concludes it starts nearly half an hour later, at 9:29, give or take a few minutes. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Brigadier General Montague Winfield, who later takes over for Leidig, says, “All of the governmental agencies there, that were involved in any activity that was going on in the United States at that point, were in that conference.” [ABC News, 9/11/02] The call continues right through the Pentagon explosion, as the NMCC doesn't even feel the impact. [CNN, 9/4/02] However, despite being in the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld doesn't join the NMCC or the call until 10:30 (see 10:30 a.m.).

(9:30 a.m.)

       As Bush begins a speech in Florida, Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke orders all US embassies overseas closed and orders all military bases to an alert level named combat Threatcon. Over the next few minutes, Clarke discusses with aides where Bush should go from Sarasota, Florida. He telephones PEOC, the commander bunker containing Vice President Cheney and National Security Advisor Rice, and says, “Somebody has to tell the President he can't come right back here [to Washington]. Cheney, Condi, somebody. Secret Service concurs. We do not want them saying where they are going when they take off. Second, when they take off, they should have fighter escort. Three, we need to authorize the Air Force to shoot down any aircraft —including a hijacked passenger flight—that looks like it is threatening to attack and cause large-scale death on the ground. Got it?” [Against All Enemies, by Richard Clarke, 3/04, pp. 5-7] However, when Bush departs on Air Force One about an hour later, there are no fighter escorts, and none appear for an hour or so (see (Between 10:55-11:41 a.m.)). Also, if Clarke requests authorization for a shoot down order at this time, it is apparently ignored, because neither President Bush nor Vice President Cheney give shoot down authorization for another half an hour, at least (see (Between 10:00-10:15 a.m.)).

(After 9:30 a.m.)

       Kevin Down, a Sarasota police officer, recalls that immediately after Bush's speech concludes, “The Secret Service agent ran out from the school and said we're under terrorist attack we have to go now.” [BBC, 9/1/02] He adds, “I thought they were actually anticipating a terrorist attack on the president while we were en route.” [BBC, 8/30/02] ABC News reporter Ann Compton, who is part of the motorcade, recalls, “It was a mad-dash motorcade out to the airport.” [BBC 9/1/02]

(9:34 a.m.)

       Bush's motorcade leaves Booker Elementary School and heads toward Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. [9:34, Washington Times, 10/8/02, 9:35, Telegraph, 12/16/01, 9:35, Wall Street Journal, 3/22/04] A few days after 9/11, Sarasota's main newspaper reports, “Sarasota barely skirted its own disaster. As it turns out, terrorists targeted the president and Air Force One on Tuesday, maybe even while they were on the ground in Sarasota and certainly not long after. The Secret Service learned of the threat just minutes after Bush left Booker Elementary.” [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/16/01] A year later, Chief of Staff Andrew Card says, “As we were heading to Air Force One, we did hear about the Pentagon attack, and we also learned, what turned out to be a mistake, but we learned that the Air Force One package could in fact be a target.” [MSNBC, 9/9/02] Real threat or not, this only increases the strangeness that Bush wasn't immediately evacuated as some of his security recommended at 9:03. And why would Bush take off in Air Force One without fighter escort if a threat to Air Force One was just discovered?

(Between 9:45-9:55 a.m.)

       At some point after the White House is evacuated (see (9:45 a.m.)), Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke institutes Continuity of Government plans. Important government personnel, especially those in line to succeed the President if he dies, are evacuated to alternate command centers. Additionally, Clarke gets a phone call from the PEOC command center containing Vice President Cheney and National Security Advisor Rice. An aide tells him, “Air Force One is getting ready to take off, with some press still on board. [Bush will] divert to an air base. Fighter escort is authorized. And … Tell the Pentagon they have authority from the President to shoot down hostile aircraft, repeat, they have authority to shoot down hostile aircraft.” However, acting Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers wants the rules of engagement clarified before the shoot down order is passed on, so Clarke orders guidelines given to pilots.

9:43 a.m.

A thorough security check before boarding Air Force One delays takeoff.
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. [Washington Times, 10/8/02, Telegraph, 12/16/01] Security then does an extra-thorough search of all the baggage for the other passengers, delaying takeoff until 9:55. [St. Petersburg Times 9/8/02 (B)]

(9:45 a.m.)

       According to the 9/11 Commission, about this time, Chief of Staff Andrew Card, the lead Secret Service agent, the President's military aide, and Air Force One pilot Colonel Mark Tillman confer on a possible destination for Air Force One. According to witnesses, Bush wants to return to Washington, but the others advise against it. The issue is still not decided when Air Force One takes off, and it departs without a destination (see (9:56 a.m.)). [9/11 Commission Report 6/17/04]

9:50 a.m.

       ABC News reporter Ann Compton is the presidential motorcade traveling to the Sarasota airport. She recalls, “We raced to where Air Force One was prepped and ready to go. The President was hustled quickly on board Air Force One—no waving good-bye, no shaking hands—on board and the door sealed. And the Secret Service agents standing with the 13 of us from the press who get on the rear stairs were yelling ‘move it, move it, move it!’ We scrambled on board the aircraft and took off very, very quickly.” [BBC 9/1/02]

(9:56-10:40 a.m.)

       Air Force One takes off and quickly gains altitude. One passenger later says, “It was like a rocket. For a good 10 minutes, the plane was going almost straight up.” [CBS, 9/11/02 (B)] Once the plane reaches cruising altitude, it flies in circles. Journalists on board sense this, because the television reception for a local station generally remains good. “Apparently Bush, Cheney and the Secret Service argue over the safety of Bush coming back to Washington.” [Salon 9/12/01 (B); Telegraph 12/16/01]

(After 9:56 a.m.)

       After flying off in Air Force One, Bush talks to Vice President Cheney on the phone. Cheney recommends that Bush authorize the military to shoot down any plane under control of the hijackers. “I said, ‘You bet,’ ” Bush later recalls. “We had a little discussion, but not much.” [“After Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon,” Newsday, 9/23/01, time unknown, USA Today, 9/16/01, “Once airborne, Bush spoke again to Cheney,” Washington Post, 1/27/02, after Bush is airborne, CBS, 9/11/02] The 9/11 Commission claims that Cheney tells Bush three planes are still missing and one has hit the Pentagon. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Bush later says that he doesn't make any major decisions about how to respond to the 9/11 attacks until after Air Force One takes off. [Wall Street Journal 3/22/04] Flight 93 is still in the air, and fighters are given orders to intercept it and possibly shoot it down. [ABC News 9/11/02]

(9:56 a.m.)

Air Force One departs Sarasota.
Bush departs from the Sarasota, Florida, airport on Air Force One. [9:54, Dallas Morning News, 8/28/02, 9:55, New York Times, 9/16/01 (B), 9:55, Daily Mail, 9/8/02, 9:55, Washington Post, 1/27/02, 9:55, Washington Post, 9/12/01, 9:55, AP, 9/12/01, 9:55, ABC News, 9/11/02, 9:55, 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04, 9:56, Wall Street Journal, 3/22/04, 9:57, CBS, 9/11/02 (B), 9:57, New York Times, 9/12/01, 9:57, CNN, 9/12/01, 9:57, Telegraph, 12/16/01] Amazingly, his plane takes off without any fighters protecting it. “The object seemed to be simply to get the President airborne and out of the way,” says an administration official. [Telegraph, 12/16/01] There are still 3,520 planes in the air over the US. [USA Today, 8/13/02 (B)] About half of the planes in the region of Florida where Bush is are still in the air. [St. Petersburg Times, 9/7/02] Fighters don't apparently meet up with Air Force One until about an hour later (see (Between 10:55 -11:41 a.m.)).

9:59 a.m.

       The 9/11 Commission reports, “An Air Force Lieutenant Colonel working in the White House Military Office [joins] the [NMCC] conference and state[s] that he had just talked to Deputy National Security Advisor Steve Hadley. The White House request[s]: (1) the implementation of continuity of government measures, (2) fighter escorts for Air Force One, and (3) the establishment of a fighter combat air patrol over Washington, DC.” [Independent Commission Report, 6/17/04] Richard Clarke gave the continuity of government orders a few minutes before from inside the White House (see (Between 9:45-9:55 a.m.)). This is consistent with Bush's claim that he doesn't make any major decisions about the 9/11 attacks until shortly before 10:00 (see (After 9:56 a.m.)).

(Between 10:10-10:15 a.m.)

       The Secret Service is being given projected path information about Flight 93, so they don't realize the flight has already crashed (see 10:02 a.m.). Based on this erroneous information, a military aide tells Vice President Cheney and others in the White House bunker that the plane is 80 miles away from Washington. Cheney is asked for authority to engage the plane. He quickly gives the authorization. The aide returns a few minutes later and says the plane is 60 miles out. Cheney again gives authorization to engage. A few minutes later, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten suggests Cheney contact President Bush and confirm the engage order. Bolten later tells the 9/11 Commission he hadn't heard any prior discussion on the topic with Bush, and wanted to make sure Bush knew. Apparently Cheney calls Bush and obtains confirmation. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] However, there is controversy over whether Bush approved a shoot down before this incident or if Cheney gave himself the authority to make the decision on the spot (see (Between 10:00-10:15 a.m.)). Newsweek notes that in one sense it's a moot point, since the decision was made on false data and there is no plane to shoot down. [Newsweek 6/20/04]

(Between 10:00-10:15 a.m.)

       According to a 9/11 Commission staff report, Vice President Cheney is told that a combat air patrol has been established over Washington (see (9:55-10:10 a.m.)). Cheney then calls President Bush to discuss the rules of engagement for the pilots. Bush authorizes the shoot down of hijacked aircraft at this time. [Independent Commission Report, 6/17/04] According to a Washington Post article, which places the call after 9:55, “Cheney recommended that Bush authorize the military to shoot down any such civilian airliners—as momentous a decision as the president was asked to make in those first hours. ‘I said, ‘You bet,’ ’ Bush recalled. ‘We had a little discussion, but not much.’ ” Bush then talks to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld to clarify the procedure, and Rumsfeld passes word down the chain of command. [Washington Post, 1/27/02] Cheney and Bush recall this phone call between them, and National Security Advisor Rice recalls overhearing it. However, the Commission notes, “Among the sources that reflect other important events that morning there is no documentary evidence for this call, although the relevant sources are incomplete. Others nearby who were taking notes, such as the Vice President's Chief of Staff, [I. Lewis] Libby, who sat next to him, and [Lynne] Cheney, did not note a call between the President and Vice President immediately after the Vice President entered the conference room.” The commission also denies that Bush and Rumsfeld talk about a such procedures at that time (see (Between 10:00-10:35 a.m.)). [Independent Commission Report, 6/17/04] Commission Chairman Thomas Kean says, “The phone logs don't exist, because they evidently got so fouled up in communications that the phone logs have nothing. So that's the evidence we have.” Commission Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton says of the shoot down order, “Well, I'm not sure it was carried out.” [Independent Commission, 6/17/04 (C), New York Daily News, 6/18/04] Newsweek reports that it “has learned that some on the commission staff were, in fact, highly skeptical of the Vice President's account and made their views clearer in an earlier draft of their staff report. According to one knowledgeable source, some staffers ‘flat out didn't believe the call ever took place.’ ” After vigorous lobbying from the White House, the report “was watered down,” in the words of one 9/11 Commission staffer. [Newsweek, 6/20/04] An account by Canadian Captain Mike Jellinek, overseeing NORAD's Colorado headquarters, where he claims to hear Bush give a shoot down order early in the morning, as well as the order to empty the skies of aircraft (see (9:45 a.m.)), now appears to be totally discredited. [Toronto Star 12/9/01]

(After 10:06 a.m.)

       Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is told by an aide, “Secret Service reports a hostile aircraft ten minutes out.” Two minutes later he's given an update: “Hostile aircraft eight minutes out.” In actual fact, when Flight 93 crashes at 10:06, it's still about 15 minutes away from Washington (see (10:13 -10:23 a.m.)). Clarke is also told that there are 3,900 aircraft still in the air over the continental US (which is roughly accurate) and four of those are believed to be piloted by terrorists (which is inaccurate). Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Richard Myers then reports, “We have three F-16s from Langley over the Pentagon. Andrews is launching fighters from the DC Air National Guard. We have fighters aloft from the Michigan Air National Guard, moving east toward a potential hostile over Pennsylvania. Six fighters from Tyndall and Ellington are en route to rendezvous with Air Force One over Florida. They will escort it to Barksdale.” [Against All Enemies, by Richard Clarke, 3/04, pp. 8-9, NORAD, 9/18/01] However, fighters don't apparently meet up with Air Force One until about an hour later (see (Between 10:55-11:41 a.m.)). Franklin Miller, a senior national security official who worked alongside Clarke on 9/11, and another official there later fail to recall hearing any aide warning that a plane could be only minutes away. [New York Times, 3/30/04 (B)] The time of this incident is not given, but the Michigan fighters are not diverted until after 10:06 (see (After 10:06 a.m.)). If this takes place after 10:06, it would parallel similar warnings being given to Vice President Cheney elsewhere in the White House (see 10:02 a.m., (Between 10:00-10:15 a.m.), and (Between 10:00 -10:15 a.m.)).

(10:08 a.m.)

The Pentagon is hit, but the wall where it was hit does not collapse for another 37 minutes.
Bush is told of the crash of Flight 93 a few minutes later. Because of Cheney's earlier order, he asks, “Did we shoot it down or did it crash?” Several hours later, he is assured it crashed. [Washington Post 1/27/02]

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. [Washington Post, 1/27/02] Many doubt the existence of this threat. For instance, Representative Martin Meehan (D) says, “I don't buy the notion Air Force One was a target. That's just PR, that's just spin.” [Washington Times, 10/8/02] A later account calls the threat “completely untrue,” and says Cheney probably made the story up. A well-informed, anonymous Washington official says, “It did two things for [Cheney]. It reinforced his argument that the President should stay out of town, and it gave George W an excellent reason for doing so.” [Telegraph, 12/16/01] Why wouldn't Air Force One already have a fighter escort, and why would it take so long for new planes to arrive? Does Cheney also delay a fighter escort? Why does he apparently lie to keep Bush away?

(10:35 a.m.)

       Air Force One turns toward Louisiana. It has been decided Bush cannot go directly to Washington. [CBS 9/11/02 (B); Washington Post 1/27/02]

(Between 10:55-11:41 a.m.)

President Bush (center, stooped down) and staff look out the windows of Air Force One to see their newly arrived fighter escorts.
No fighters escort Bush's Air Force One until somewhere in this time period. At 10:32, Cheney said it would take until about 11:10 to 12:00 to get a fighter escort to Air Force One. [Washington Post, 1/27/02] According to one account, around 10:00 Air Force One “is joined by an escort of F-16 fighters from a base near Jacksonville, Florida,” but this is contradicted by Cheney's comment reported a month later. [Telegraph, 12/16/01] Another account says, “At 10:41, … Air Force One headed toward Jacksonville to meet jets scrambled to give the presidential jet its own air cover.” [New York Times, 9/16/01 (B)] But apparently when Air Force One takes evasive action around 10:55 there is still no fighter escort (see 10:55 a.m.). NORAD commander Major General Larry Arnold later says, “We scrambled available airplanes from Tyndall [near Tallahassee, not Jacksonville, Florida] and then from Ellington in Houston, Texas,” but he doesn't say when. [Code One Magazine, 1/02] In another account, two F-16s eventually arrive, piloted by Shane Brotherton and Randy Roberts, from the Texas Air National Guard, not from any Florida base. [CBS, 9/11/02] By 11:30 there are six fighters protecting Air Force One. [Sarasota Magazine, 9/19/01] The BBC however, reports that the Ellington, Texas fighters are scrambled at 11:30, and quotes ABC reporter Ann Compton, inside Air Force One, saying fighters appear out the windows at 11:41. [BBC, 9/1/02] Given that two of the seven bases said to have fighters on alert on 9/11 are in Florida, Homestead Air Station, 185 miles from Sarasota, and Tyndall Air Station, 235 miles from Sarasota, not to mention the Jacksonville base, why don't fighters escort Air Force One from takeoff, or a few minutes later?

(10:55 a.m.)

Colonel Mark Tillman in the cockpit of Air Force One.
Colonel Mark Tillman, pilot of Air Force One, is told there is a threat to Bush's plane. Tillman has an armed guard placed at his cockpit door while the Secret Service double-checks the identity of everyone on board. Then traffic controllers warn that a suspect airliner is dead ahead. Says Tillman, “Coming out of Sarasota there was one call that said there was an airliner off our nose that they did not have contact with.” Tillman takes evasive action, pulling his plane high above normal traffic. [CBS, 9/11/02 (B)] Reporters on board notice the rise in elevation. [10:55 according to a reporter who writes it in her notebook, Dallas Morning News, 8/28/02, “just before 11:00,” Salon, 9/12/01 (B)] The report is apparently a false alarm. The alarm shows the folly of having Bush get in Air Force One at this time without a fighter escort.

11:45 a.m.

Air Force One at Barksdale Air Force Base.
Air Force One lands at Barksdale Air Force base near Shreveport, Louisiana. “The official reason for landing at Barksdale was that Bush felt it necessary to make a further statement, but it isn't unreasonable to assume that—as there was no agreement as to what the President's movements should be—it was felt he might as well be on the ground as in the air.”[Salon, 9/12/01 (B), New York Times, 9/16/01 (B), Telegraph, 12/16/01, CBS, 9/11/02] If this is true, then having him take off without any fighter escort makes even less sense.

(12:00 Noon)

       Bush arrives at the Barksdale Air Force base headquarters in a Humvee escorted by armed outriders. Reporters and others are not allowed to say where they are. [Telegraph, 12/16/01] Compare this level of security to the complete lack of any security measures to protect Bush earlier in the day when it is learned that a second plane has hit the WTC.

1:02 p.m.

       Defense Secretary Rumsfeld later claims that he says to President Bush over a secure line, “This is not a criminal action. This is war.” [Washington Times 2/23/04]

1:04 p.m.

       President Bush puts the US military on high alert worldwide. [CNN 9/12/01; AP 8/19/02]

(1:30 p.m.)

       President Bush leaves Barksdale Air Force Base for Nebraska's Offutt Air Force Base, home to the US Strategic Command. [1:15, Telegraph, 12/16/01, 1:31, Salon, 9/12/01 (B), 1:44, MSNBC, 9/22/01, 1:48, CNN, 9/12/01] He travels with Chief of Staff Andrew Card, senior advisor Karl Rove, communications staffers Dan Bartlett, Ari Fleischer and Gordon Johndroe, and a reduced number of reporters. [Salon 9/12/01 (B)]

(2:50 p.m.)

       Air Force One lands at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, Nebraska. Bush stays on the plane for about 10 minutes before entering United States Strategic Command at 3:06. [Salon, 9/12/01] 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 with other top leaders. [Telegraph, 12/16/01, Washington Times, 10/8/02] [Daily Mail 9/8/02; Telegraph 12/16/01; Salon 9/12/01; AP 8/19/02]

(3:00 p.m.)

       President Bush begins a video conference from a bunker beneath Offutt Air Force Base. He and chief of staff Andrew Card visually communicate directly with Vice President Cheney, National Security Advisor Rice, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, CIA Director Tenet, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, and others. [Telegraph, 12/16/01, Washington Times, 10/8/02, ABC News, 9/11/02] According to Clarke, Bush begins the meeting by saying, “I'm coming back to the White House as soon as the plane is fueled. No discussion.” Clarke then leads a quick review of what has occurred already, and issues that need to be quickly addressed. CIA Director Tenet then states that al-Qaeda is clearly behind the 9/11 attacks. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld states that about 120 fighters are now above US cities. [Against All Enemies, by Richard Clarke, 3/04, pp. 21-22] The meeting ends at 4:15. [Telegraph 12/16/01; Washington Times 10/8/02]

(4:00 p.m.)

       Bush advisor Karl Rove later says that at this time Bush is hesitant to return to Washington because, “They've accounted for all four [hijacked] planes, but they've got another, I think, three or four or five planes still outstanding.” [New Yorker, 9/25/01] However, the FAA points out there are no such reports and that Bush had been quickly informed when domestic US skies were completely cleared at 12:16 a.m. [Wall Street Journal 3/22/04]

(4:33 p.m.)

This photo of Bush speaking to Cheney shortly after leaving Offutt is later used for Republican fundraising.
President Bush leaves Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska for Washington. [MSNBC 9/22/01; CNN 9/12/01; Telegraph 12/16/01; Washington Times 10/8/02]

(6:54 p.m.)

       Bush arrives back at the White House, after exiting Air Force One at 6:42 and flying across Washington in a helicopter. [ABC News, 9/11/02] [Salon 9/12/01 (B); Washington Times 10/8/02; CNN 9/12/01; Telegraph 12/16/01; AP 8/19/02]

(7:00 p.m.)

       Secretary of State Powell returns to Washington from Lima, Peru. Ten hours after the attacks began, he is finally able to speak to Bush for the first time when they both arrive at the White House at about the same time. Powell later says of his flight, “And the worst part of it, is that because of the communications problems that existed during that day, I couldn't talk to anybody in Washington.” [ABC News, 9/11/02] The Telegraph later theorizes, “Why so long? In the weeks before September 11 Washington was full of rumors that Powell was out of favor and had been quietly relegated to the sidelines… ” [Telegraph 12/16/01]

8:30 p.m.

Bush addresses the nation.
Bush addresses the nation on live TV. [CNN, 9/12/01] In what will later be called the Bush Doctrine, he states,“We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.” [Washington Post 1/27/02]

(9:00 p.m.)

President Bush (below television screen) meeting with the National Security Council on the evening of 9/11.
Bush meets with his full National Security Council in the PEOC (Presidential Emergency Operations Center) beneath the White House. This is followed roughly half an hour later by a meeting with a smaller group of key advisers. 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. Bush says, tell the Taliban we're finished with them. [Washington Post, 1/27/02] According to counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, Bush states, “We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.” He goes on to say, “I want you all to understand that we are at war and we will stay at war until this is done. Nothing else matters. Everything is available for the pursuit of this war. Any barriers in your way, they're gone. Any money you need, you have it. This is our only agenda.” When Rumsfeld points out that international law only allows force to prevent future attacks and not for retribution, Bush yells, “No. I don't care what the international lawyers say, we are going to kick some ass.”

(11:30 p.m.)

       Before going to sleep, Bush writes in his diary, “The Pearl Harbor of the 21st century took place today. … We think it's Osama bin Laden.” [Washington Post 1/27/02]

Except where otherwise noted, the textual content of each timeline is licensed under the Creative Commons License below:

Creative Commons License Home |  About this Site |  Development |  Donate |  Contact Us
Terms of Use