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MAY 2 2 2003
Office of the Press Secretary

Internal Transcript



The Vice President's Ceremonial Office

11 : 07 A.M. EOT

0 We're short on time, so I'm going to skip some points;

we'll go back and forth a bit.

_ So you're in Florida. The President is—speaking to the

schoolchildren. You already know what, you assume at that
moment, has been some sort of a freak accident at the World Trade
Center. And then you're told, a second plane. What do you do?

SECRETARY CARD: Well, it was clear that once the second

plane hit, it was not a freak accident. This was a coordinated
attack. And I agonized whether or not I should tell the
President. I decided that if I were President, I would want to
k n ov.'.

So I tried to very quickly craft a message in my mind, so

that I could not talk to the President, but tell the President,
in efficient ways, so that he would understand the gravity of the
si tuation.
I then took one step into the classroom, looked over to the
press pool; I remember the press pool was there. And one of the
reporters looked up at me, a "What are you doing here?" kind of
inquisitive. Arjd^l held up two fingers and I said, "A second
plane." And then I waited for a break in the conversation in the
cTassroom; I remember the President was speaking to the students
and teachers about reading.

And I walked up to his right ear, leaned over and whispered

in, A second plane hit the second tower; America is under

I chose those words carefully, because I wanted to be

efficient in how I delivered the message. But I also wanted to
be unambiguous about the consequence, and sending the message
that this was not an accident, this was a coordinated attack on
JBi our country.

And then I stepped back from the President and watched him
for a brief period of time -- it felt like a long time. I saw
him stare off, and I knew that he was struggling to find the
"rTgTFT: point to break the conversation with the students and the
teachers, and then extricate himself from the room so that he
could come in and deal with the situation.

Q And he leaves the event -- and you see him. He

shakes hands, he looks -- relatively normal, if you will. He
shakes hands with a few people on the way out

SECRETARY CARD: He excused himself and he said, I

apologize, but something happened and I'm going to have to"leave.
And he was very polite, and also was not delivering any message
of fear to those students or to the teachers.

And he came to the holding room

Q And what does he say? I assume he walks in through the

door, and at that point he switches gears.

SECRETARY CARD: He said, "What's going on?" And we moved

very efficiently into telling him what the situation was. He got
on the telephone with Dr. Rice in the Situation Room. We
understood what was happening; we brought a television into the
holding room so we could see the footage of the plane crashing
into the World Trade Center, the second plane. And we know,
obviously, that this was a horrendous moment for America.
The President then decided that he wanted to get back to
Washington, D.C., that we could not go on with the event. I
shifted gears and went in to make sure that Secretary Paige was
ready to stay at the school and continue with the event, and that
the logistics were set up so that the President could leave very
quickly and get to Air Force One.

It was then we learned that there wasn't a lot of sense of

security, and that there was uncertainty not just in New York
City, but in Washington, D.C., about what was happening.

And we quickly crafted some remarks for the President to

make to the students and parents, faculty that were gathered in
the gymnasium of the school. And the President went out and
delivered that relatively succinct message. We left Secretary
Paige there to coordinate the activities for the rest of the day
at that school.
We then got in the motorcade and went at a pretty fast clip
off to Air Force One. It was then that we learned that Air Force
One might have been a target for the terrorists it turns out
rhal: that was not accurate information, but the fog of war
suggested that we didn't know what was really happening.

I was focusing on getting the President to a place where he
could have secure communications and be safe. And that was Air
Force One.

0 And at that moment, you think you're coming to

Washington still? You're in the motorcade, right?

SECRETARY CARD: Well, no, we didn't know where -- we knew

we were going to Air Force One. And we had time on Air Force One
to decide where the plane should land.

1 was focusing on getting the President to a place where he

would be safe and have the ability to communicate in a secure way
with the command structure of our government.

I was very tunnel-driven. I was getting the President to

where he should be to be able to exercise his responsibilities as

Q Now, who do you talk to back here in that environment?

What are_you doing? Are you touching back with the—White House?
Were they even here at that point? Or were they being

SECRETARY CARD: I was talking to the Situation Room. So I /

was communicating with the Situation Room, and I was /
communicating with the Secret Service and the White House '
Mi 1itary Office, to make sure that the plane would be ready and
we could move off to an undisclosed location.

And we didn't know where we were going when we first got on

the plane. We wanted to get the plane up in the air as quickly
as possible. We wanted to make arrangements for us to have a
fighter escort as quickly as possible. And then we flew a
serpentine route, looking for the right place to land, where they
would have a secure environment that would allow the President
to, again, talk to folks in Washington, D.C.

The beauty about Air Force One is the -- the office the
President uses on Air Force One has all the communications that
the office in the Oval Office has, the West Wing of the White
( House. And so he was able to communicate in a very, very good,
'" real-time way with the National Security Advisor, the Vice
President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of
Transportation. And he also was able to communicate with the
Governor of New York and the Mayor of New York City.

Q Do you recall anything he said in those early moments

that sort of -- your sense of how he was processing the moment?

SECRETARY CARD: Well, I think he understood we were at war.

He was using the term "attack" and he knew that we were at war,
and he was functioning as Commander-in-Chief. He was really
directing his government well. He spoke about the need to get
all the planes down out of the skies, and the FAA did a

spectacular job of getting planes down on the ground -- not
just the ones that were flying over the continental United
States, but also those that were coming from Europe and from
Asia, get them on the ground. And so there was a lot of
communication back to the White House to make sure that the
planes were on the ground.

There was clearly a period of time when the President

struggled with that huge decision, as to whether or not American
fighter jets would be given the authority to shoot down a
commercial jetliner.

\»f 0 You're in the air when that decision is made, right?

I SECRETARY CARD: Yes, we were.

Q Between Sarasota and what ultimately turns out to be


SECRETARY CARD: That's correct.

0 And do you recall those conversations at all, about

whether to engage in such
SECRETARY CARD: Yes. It was a short but very heavy
discussion that the President had with, the Vire-President. the
Secretary of Def_enjge. And -- but the decision was made that if
hostiieactswere likely to be taking place via a commercial
jetliner, the fighter pilot would be given permission to shoot
the plane down.

0 Did the President say anything when he finished that


SECRETARY CARD: No, it was a he understood the

magnitude of the decision.

But he was moving on. I think he was very

compartmentalized, very disciplined about how he was meeting his
responsibilities as Commander-in-Chief, the President for all of
us, and the leader of the free world.

0 You land at Barksdale, he delivers -- he has some

remarks there, and he s also back in touch. And I assume at that
point he's itching to get back, and you're having to deal with
the fact that

SECRETARY CARD: He was itching to get back to Washington,

D.C. -- when we were in the motorcade going to Air Force One,
he wanted to get back to Washington, D.C. And I was the one
saying that -- let's let the dust settle. We don't know what
the situation is. Let's get on the plan where he'll be safe.

And as we were flying in the plane, we were looking to find
out what was happening in New York, in Washington, D.C. Clearly,
the situation with regard to the plane that crashed in
Pennsylvania. So there was a lot of misinformation. The fog of
war was real, and there was a lot of dust in the air. And I
thought the dust should settle before we put the President in a
place where he might have been vulnerable.

Q How was the President -- how was he told about the


V \
SECRETARY CARD: He was told about it -- I think we were
in the limousine, actually, when we were heading back to the
plane. And we had a report that the Pentagon Kauj been hit.
There was also a report that there was a fire at the State
Department, there was a report of a fire in the Old Executive
Office Building. So there was a lot of information that was
coming in -- some of it proved not to be accurate, others
proved to be accurate.

But by the_ time we got on Air Force One, we knew that_the

World Trade Center towers had been attacked and that the Pentagon
had been attacked.

Q Is there a moment -- is it here? Is it later? -- a

moment where you get a, you know, "Where's the First Lady?" I
mean, the President as human being, if you will?

SECRETARY CARD: No, the President -- when we got on the .

plane, we had a good report from the Secret Service that told us
that the First Lady was safe and that -- she had been on
Capitol Hill with Senator Kennedy, getting ready to appear before
a congressional committee to talk about education. And she had
was in a safe environment. We knew that she had been taken
to a secure facility that the Secret Service runs.

The President also checked on his two daughters, and we knew

that they were both safe. So the President was functioning as
Chief of Staff -- I mean, Commander- in -Chief for the entire
country, for the military. He was functioning as father, he was
functioning as husband. And he was functioning as kind of the
leader of the free world, because he understood that this attack
was not just an attack on America; it was really an attack of
people who were looking to invite anarchy, and that was going to
be a threat to civilization. So it wasn't just about the United
States .

Q It was clear at that point that this is terrorism. Do

you recall a point in the day in which you first hear the words
"Osama bin Laden" or "al Qaeda"?

SECRETARY CARD: Oh, boy -- I think sometime during the

course of the flight from Florida to Louisiana, there was
speculation that this was a terrorist attack, or -- Osama bin

Laden, I remember hearing "Osama bin Laden." I do not remember
hearing "al Qaeda" at that moment.

Q Does that talk strengthen over the day? It was pretty

clear -- I recall early in the morning people were saying, you
know, there aren't many organizations capable of pulling this
off, therefore the early guess is bin Laden. And then, by the
end of the day, obviously, the President -- I know I'm fast-
forwarding -- but he has a national security meeting at Offutt.
Then he has another one after the remarks to the American people.
Do you recall a sense that -- whether it's from the CIA or from
others -- that you -- the knowledge base, if you will, had
grown to the point where people are more firm in that?

SECRETARY CARD: Well, obviously we knew about the attack

that had taken place on the World Trade Center with a truck
bombing, car bombing, years ago. And we knew who those people
were, and I think there was an expectation that this was kind of
a follow-up to that attack.

And so there was -- I think there was recognition of the

network of al Qaeda pretty early. And I don't remember if it
came from the CIA or from the State Department or from the
Defense Department. But I mean, we were^openly talking about it
by the time we had our secure video teleconference meeting out at
Offutt Air Force Base~ "

Q Do you recall -- you were uniquely in a position to

be close to the President at this enormously trying .time for him.
Was there ever a moment -- I know he's trying to touch base
with FEMA, touch base with the governors, as you mentioned, all
these people, keeping in touch with the Vice President and
others. Ever a moment -where he just exhales and says anything
about what he's thinking about what's going on?

SECRETARY CARD: Well, he was very efficient. You know he's

a very disciplined man, and he's very efficient with his time.
He was a perfect leader, because he compartmentalized
responsibilities that each one of us had around him, and he made
sure we were doing our job. And my job was to make sure the
President had all of the tools that he needed to make a decision.
So I made sure the communications was right, made sure the Secret
Sjervice was getting us to"a secure location, "made sure that the
command structure with the Secretary of Defense wa% appropriate
and workTng,that he was ableto reach the Vice President.

The team that served the President on Air Force One was a
phenomenal team -- communicators, and military officers, and
Secret Service. And we did discipline people on the plane not to
come forward, to stay back in the back sections so the President
would have time to make those decisions.
But do I remember him sitting down and taking a big sigh and
saying, Wow, let me reflect on what lias happened today? No. He

was in operational mode. He was focusing on how to respond. He
was mixing the responsibilities of the Commander-in-Chief with a
President who had great compassion for those people who were
victims. And the victims were unknown -- we didn't know the
level of aggravation that would invite itself upon so many
families in New York and in Washington, B.C., or in Philadelphia
I mean, Pennsylvania.

So, but he was a very compassionate man during this time,

too. When he spoke with the Governor of New York and the Mayor
of New York City, he talked about that we were going to be there
to help.

So this was a leader who took all of his responsibilities

and met them well.

Q The President, at Offutt, I understand, has made the

decision in his head that he's coming home.

SECRETARY CARD: Yes, he did.

Q And there are still a few people saying, Sir, you know,
we're not so sure about the environment. Do you remember he way
he just sort of said
SECRETARY CARD: Well, it wasn't just at Offutt. He made
those statements repeatedly from the time were in the motorcade,
on Air Force One flying to Louisiana, flying from Louisiana to
Nebraska. And then -- once it was apparent that the dust was
settling, and we understand the nature of the attacks, and all
the planes were on the ground, the President kind of directed
that he was going back to Washington, D.C.

And the Secret Service was comfortable, because we think we

had mitigated all of the concerns about planes in the air. And
Andrews Air Force Base was a good safe place to land. We could
get back to the White House quickly, and the President could get
into the President's Emergency Operations Center. And as you
know, he addressed the American people, and functioned as the
leader that everyone knew that he was.

Q Do you recall your thoughts on arriving back here?

SECRETARY CARD: Well, I mean, I remember flying in and

seeing the smoke rising from the Pentagon. And looking out of
the windows of Air Force One and seeing fighter jets from the Air
National Guard accompanying us -- neither one of those sights
that we've seen before.

And so this -- it told us we were in a different place.

It was eerie. And it was a very, very heavy time. It was a
heavy time for the President, it was a heavy time for those of us
who were around him.

0 And where were you when the President gave his remarks
to the American people?

SECRETARY CARD: Standing in the next room. He was in the

Oval Office, and I was standing in the outer room to the Oval
Office. And when he finished his remarks, we gathered in the
Roosevelt Room, and then we went to the PEOC for another National
Security Council meeting.

Q What was the sense then? I assume people were pretty

exhausted from a trying day, but also trying to figure out, what
do we do from here?

SECRETARY CARD: Well, the President had already shifted

gears on how will we respond as a country? So he was in an
effort to engage in this war, prevent the next attack, and get
those who were responsible for the attack. And so he had shifted
gears pretty quickly.

Q Does "get those responsible for the attack" mean the

President at that point -- you went down, back into the-
Operations Center and had a National Security Briefing. Is he at
that point saying, you know, "Yes, we have a mess to clean up and
we have people still to try to save, but I want planning and I
want i t now"?

SECRETARY CARD: Yes. He had moved into the recovery

effort, and then he'd also moved into the go-get-'em effort. And
there was no doubt in his mind that we had to go get these people
that had perpetrated this attack, and we had to prevent the next
at tack

1 think his compassion for those who were hurt and uncertain
was very real. It came through in his remarks -- not just from
the Oval Office, but also from what he said when he landed at
Barksdale. You remember, we landed at Barksdale, and he
desperately wanted to speak to the American people from
Barksdale. But we didn't have satellite trucks, we didn't have
the means of communication. So he gave a statement to the press;
we knew that it was covered by video, and the word would get out
very quickly to the American people that he had something to say.

And he did that before we headed off to Offutt Air Force

Base in Nebraska, and then back to Washington, D.C.
0 We only have a few minutes left, and I want to talk
about the other thing we discussed at the beginning. But do you
have any other recollections of any particular moment, or any
particular encounter with -- whether it's the President or
anyone else that day, that just sticks out in your mind?

SECRETARY CARD: Well, I remember after we thought the day

was done -- I was back in my office in the West Wing of the
White House, and the next thing I knew the Secret Service came in

and very quickly said, "Move to the PEOC", the emergency center.
And without question., I dropped everything and went right to the
PEOC. There was a small parade of people heading over in that

When we get down to the emergency shelter, down came the

President and the First Lady, with the dogs. And they clearly
had already been in bed and asleep, and rousted out of bed to
come down to the secure shelter. And that's because there were
reports of a plane entering the airspace over Washington, D.C.
And we did not know whether it was another attack, and whether
the attack would be on the White House.

But that was something I'll always remember. And then the
Secret Service was trying to suggest that the President should
spend the night in the emergency shelter, and he announced that
he would go back up to bed.

Q You say "announced." How did he announced it?

(Laughter.) _

SECRETARY CARD: It was -- it was clear he was Commander-

in-Chief, and he was giving the orders.

Q Any other moment from the day, or did you -- did you
have any time to go back? I've asked you if the President
exhaled; I mean, did you have a chance to flop at your desk, or
get home and just think about what the day meant?
SECRETARY CARD: It was a pretty late night before I got
home, and I was relieved to see my wife, because I had not talked
to Kathy during the entire day. And I knew that she would be
under a lot of stress as well. She's a minister, and she had
done a lot of counseling and ministering that day to people who
had great fear about what was happening in our country. And I
ached for her, and I was anxious to see her. So I was glad to
get home and see her at the end of the day.




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