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MAY 2 2 Z003
Office of the Press Secretary National Commission on

Internal Transcript /"August 12, 2002



Room 459
Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building

Q Okay, let's start with the moment. That moment that's etched, now, in Americans'
memory, and in American history. What exactly did you say to the President at 9:06 a.m. in the
morning on September 11th?

SECRETARY CARD: I went up to his right ear, and I leaned over and thought carefully
about the remarks I would make before I made them. But I said, "A second plane hit the second
tower; America is under attack." And then 1 backed away from the President.

I tried to find words that would be efficient, let the President know the gravity of the
situation, that it could not have been a coincidence, and that it was important enough for me to
interrupt him doing something that he enjoyed doing. Remember, that day he was focusing on
the need to teach children to read, and to leave no child behind. And I agonized as to whether or
not I should interrupt the President during that session in that classroom in Florida.

I guess the test was, Would I want to know, if I were the President, what had happened?
And the answer was obviously yes, I would want to know.

Q "America is under attack."

SECRETARY CARD: Yes. The President knew about the first plane hitting the World
Trade Center before he went into the classroom. But the expectation then was that it was a
horrible accident, and that a pilot might have had a heart attack. In fact, the first word was that it
was a twin-engine prop plane. Then it was such that we knew that it was a jetliner, and then \n the second jet

America was under attack.

So I did choose to use those words.

Q And what was your tone? How urgently did you say this to him?

SECRETARY CARD: I tried to be very efficient with my words. I knew that this was
not the place to stand and have a conversation with the President. I just wanted to convey the
situation to the President in stark reality, and inviting him, then, to find the best chance to excuse
himself from the classroom.

Q You've seen the picture now, I'm sure many times, of that moment. You know
that face so well, you work with him every day. What do you read in his reaction there?

SECRETARY CARD: I think there was a moment of shock. And he did stare off,
maybe for just a second, but it happened to be the second when the camera clicked. And I think
he understood the gravity of the situation. And he was very well composed, and there's not a
doubt in my mind that the President was already shifting his gears into responding as a
Commander-in-Chief and as a leader of the free world in that classroom.

Q Let me take you back a few minutes. When you found out about the first plane,
as the President's Chief of Staff, what did you see your job in helping him with that situation?

SECRETARY CARD: Well, the President was getting ready to go into a classroom to
talk about reading with the students and teachers. And I wanted him to be comfortable about the
role he was going to play at that event. It was an important event; it highlighted the President's
first initiative as President, which was an education initiative.

So we were focused on that event, but it was a soft event. It wasn't a heavy event. And I
wanted him to go into that classroom and to be comfortable. But we did know that there was
something happening in New York — again, we thought that it was a horrible accident, a
tragedy of kind of individual proportions, not national proportions or international proportions.
A /S/
So the President did know about it. He had received a call from the Situation Room
before fie went into the classroom. But the fog of war suggested that it was not an attack on
America at that moment.

Q And what went through your mind when you heard about the second plane?

SECRETARY CARD: Well, as soon as I heard about it, I confirmed it by speaking with
folks in the Situation Room back at the White House. And then I said I would want to know if I
were the President. And I stood by the classroom door, took two steps into the classroom, waited
for a moment when there was a break in the conversation so I could go up to the President and
whisper in his ear.

I remember looking over to the press pool that was gathered in the back of the classroom,
and I saw one of your colleagues standing there^Ann Compton. And she looked up at me with a
question in her eyes, and I held up two fingers and said, "A second plane." And it was then that
there was a break in the conversation in the classroom, and I went up to the President and
whispered in his right ear.

Q So when the President left the classroom and could take command of the
situation, what did he do?

SECRETARY CARD: He came back into the holding room. And we had found a
television, so we brought a television in so we could see TV. And they were replaying the crash
over and over again.

We got on the phone, spoke with folks in the Situation Room, talked about the situation
in terms of what was happening in New York, what was happening in Washington, D.C. Made
the decision right there that we should leave Florida and get back into a command-and-control
environment. And so the President was looking to get to good communications.

He very quickly worked on a statement that he would make to the gathered parents and V"
students and faculty at this school. And I went into the classroom — actually, it was a
gymnasium — to make sure that the room was set up so that the President could make his
statement. The people in that room had no clue what he was going to talk about. I made sure
that Secretary Paige was informed that he would be expected to stay on and carry on with the
President's program on education, but that we would be leaving.

And so I moved into operational mode, to make sure that the event could come to a close
in terms of the President's participation, but that there would be no panic in the school, and that
we could move on where the President would have safe and secure communication with the
others that were involved in this war on terrorism.

Q That statement has been criticized by some people. They say the President seems
hesitant — used the word "folks" when speaking of the attackers. What do you make of that?

SECRETARY CARD: Well, it was put together very quickly. He spoke somewhat
extemporaneously at the microphone. He knew that he had to be efficient in his words. And
remember, we were dealing with the fog of war. The event in New York had just happened; the
event at the Pentagon was happening.

And so the President, you know, had to be efficient with his words. He could not be
disruptive to the folks that were gathered there. Nor could he present any fear to the American
people. He had to show that he would be leaving that environment and getting back to
Washington, D.C.

So I think he did what he had to do, and he did it well. It's always easy to look back and
say, Oh, I wished I'd said that, or I wish I'd said something else. I've certainly done that in my
life. I know I questioned what I should say to the President when I whispered in his ear, and still
wonder if I said the right words. But those are the words that I said to him, and I'm sure that he's
comfortable with the words that he told the American people at that moment when there was so
much uncertainty.

Q So the decision was made to leave Florida. You got back on board Air Force
One, and a discussion ensued as to where the President should go.

SECRETARY CARD: Well, my immediate concern was to get the President to where he
could have safe, secure communications, to exercise hi* rpgpnnQihilitjes as Cnmmander-in-Chief
And I knew that people in Washington, D.C., were gathering in the Situation Room and the
emergency shelters, and that the command structure was ready in Washington for the President's

We went to Air Force One as quickly as we could. While we were on the way to Air jn ' .iltC
Force One, we did hear that Air Force One potentially could be the target of an attack. And so I Nl^ '
was focused on getting the President in a safe environment, and — which meant on the plane,
and the plane should be in the air.

And then it became a question as where should the plane go? And we flew a serpentine
route to fly to Louisiana, where the President could land at a very safe facility and communicate,
again, with the folks in Washington, D.C. — here I use the term "folks", too; I guess maybe that
— well, but anyway, he got back on the plane and flew up to Nebraska, and then eventually to
Washington, D.C.

But during the entire time, the President had secure communications, so he was able to
talk to the Vice President and the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State, and to Dr.

Q I want to pick up on that. But first, talk about the discussion as to why the
President shouldn't return to Washington. As you know, there's been a lot of talk about that as

SECRETARY CARD: Well, I felt that part of my job was to make sure that the
President was in a safe environment where he had secure communication. We did not know
what the environment was in Washington. D.C., when we first got on Air Force One. We did
know at that point about the attack on the Pentagon, and we just did not know what other,
buildings could have been targeted, or people could have been targeted. And my goal was to
have the President be in a safe place, with the ability to communicate with those in the command u
structure. I \o

ground ami then assess what security was Jike back in Washington, D.C., before we took the V JD v
plane back there. (|*

Q Somebody quotes you as saying, "Mr. President, the best thing to do is let the dust

SECRETARY CARD: That's exactly right. I knew that a lot of dust had been kicked up,
literally and figuratively, and that there is such a thing as the fog of war. We did not know what
was going on, and we had to find out more about the security of our country, and what kind of
attack this was, how many different kinds of attacks there would be. And I felt that we should let

the dust settle before the President made decisions that might have either complicated or
exacerbated the concerns of the American people.

Q What was his reaction?

SECRETARY CARD-: He was very anxious to get back to Washington, D.C. And there
was a little bit of pulling and pushing with him to suggest that we should fly to a secure location
where we could have good communication, and then make a decision when he should return to
Washington. I did not want him coming back to Washington, D.C., if he would have been kind
of held hostage in the city because of terrorist attacks.

Q For people who don't know, describe the capabilities of Air Force One. Why
were you confident that he could command what he needed to command from on board that

SECRETARY CARD: Well, first of all, the plane can fly where it is very difficult for it
to be a target. And we also did ask for support from the Air Force, so that we had some fighter
jets that were also helping to protect Air Force OneT

Air Force One does have the capacity to have good communications, outstanding
communications. So it is -- the communications in Tur Force One are just as good as the
communications from the Oval Office, in terms of him being able to call, in a secure way, the
Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, the generals that might have to fight a war, or the
Vice President, or Dr. Condoleezza Rice, the National Security Advisor. So it is a very, very
safe and secure_environment. with good communications.

Q Now, he's not only a President, he's a husband and father at that moment as well.
What do you remember about his concern for his family and how he addressed that?

SECRETARY CARD: Well, the Secret Service had told us that the First Lady was okay.
We knew where she was; she was up on Capitol Hill, she had been with Senator Kennedy and
was getting ready to testify or appear before a committee. And so we knew that she was in a
secure environment. The Secret Service did tell us that they were moving her to another secure
environment in Washington, D.C.

The President did talk with the First Lady when we were on the plane, and he also was
told that his daughters were okay. And he knew where they were, and that they were being well
cared for as well. So, he communicated a couple times with the First Lady on that flight from
Florida to Louisiana, and then again from Louisiana to Nebraska, and then Nebraska back to
Washington, D.C.

Q So he was talking to her quite a bit?

SECRETARY CARD: He did, he spoke to her at least three or four times.

Q What did you see in that?

SECRETARY CARD: Well, first of all, he is the President of the United States, and he
understands those responsibilities. He also has a responsibility that goes beyond being President
of the United States, and that's kind of the leader of the free world. And this was a situation
where the attack came from people interested in anarchy — not trying to replace our government
with another kind of government, or another structure. They were trying to introduce anarchy to
our people, and anarchy to civilized governments around the world.

And this President did not let that happen. He provided the leadership that is important
for our Constitution and for our people, but he also sent the signal to the rest of the world that he
was not going to allow anarchy to invade civilization. And so I think that he understood — from
the first moment, he understood that this was an attack, what it was all about, and what his
responsibilities were.

So he rose above the moment, to really meeting the responsibilities as President of the
United States, leader of the free world, and all of the functions that a President would have -
Commander-in-Chief. But he also did not forget the role of being a husband and a father.

Q There's a picture of you and the President in the President's cabin on board Air , .
Force One en route to Barksdale. Take us in there; what was the atmosphere? \j*

SECRETARY CARD: It was all businesslike. The President was working the phones
very hard. He had two phones that he was working, and the secure operator was very busy lining
up phone calls. We made sure we had a clear line to the Vice President and to the Secretary of
Defense. We were talking with Secretary Mineta, the Secretary of Transportation. The Secret
Service was working on logistics for our arrival in Barksdale, and also for the arrival in
Nebraska. And they were certainly involved in deciding when we should come back to
Washington, D.C., and what the situation was like on the ground in Washington, D.C.

The military communications team that travels with the President was outstanding. The
national security team that travels with the President was outstanding. But we had our
compartmentalized responsibilities, and my job was to move from compartment to compartment,
to make sure everyone was doing their job.

We did not allow a lot of people to come forward on the aircraft that day. We tried to
keep the President so that he had the right people around him at the right moment, rather than a
lot of people around him all of the time. And so we introduced a little bit of discipline on Air
Force One so that people didn't wander the corridor, to come up to the compartment where the
President was doing his work.

Q It sounds very businesslike. For the rest of us, as those hours unfolded, there were
so many emotions — sorrow, dread, fear. What was the emotional temperature like in there?

SECRETARY CARD: Well, the President understood that we were under attack. And
so he wanted to understand more about the attack, and he wanted to understand more about the
security of the country and our Constitution. Because it was our Constitution that was really the

most vulnerable at that point in time. And he made very sure that the Vice President and the
national security team that were gathered at the White House were, first of all, the right team,
that they had the right resources. He did communicate a lot with the Secretary of Defense.

But really, he was asking the right questions and directing us. He was very anxious to get
back to Washington, D.C. and I was the one resistant to doing that until we understood more
about the security situation in Washington and the nature of the attacks on the United States.
Remember, at that point we weren't sure if there would be attacks on other cities or other
institutions. So I wanted to make sure that we did have a sense as to what was happening.

J_rgjQgmber it was very quickly we learned that they were bringing all planes down from
the skies. And that was an important safety enhancement to the Americjuvpeople and to people
who were on planes. And I think the FAA deserves an awful Jot of credit for working so quickly
with the command structure at the White House to get planes on the ground. So Secretary
Mineta and his team deserve a lot of credit.

We also made sure that we understood what was happening in New York City —
communications with the Governor of New York^jwith the Mayor of New York, very early
communications with those two leaders. We also, obviously, had been talking with Secretary
Rumsfeld about the situation at the Pentagon. And then, once the plane crashed into
Pennsylvania, there was additional recognition that Washington, D.C., buildings like the White
House, were probably the likely targets of other terrorists.

And so until we could understand what was happening in terms of the attack or attacks, I
felt it was important for the President to be away from Washington, with good communications,
and in a secure environment.

Q You've served two previous Presidents. What did you see in this President, as
these events unfolded?

SECRETARY CARD: He's a man of great discipline and resolve. He's a man of great
faith. And he loves his family, he loves his country, and he understands the responsibility of
being the President. And I think all of those attributes contributed to the way he was a leader on
September 11th and days following.

He exercised the discipline to do what was right. He did not allow emotions to overcome
his responsibility. And love of country, love of family, faith, played a big role in how he
compartmentalized his responsibilities on that day.

So I was very proud to be with him. He is a very, very good leader. And I witnessed his
leadership first-hand.

Q Was he angry?

SECRETARY CARD: He was angry at the attackers and at the attack, but he did not
allow the anger to get in the way of the responsibilities to lead. And he was very direct in

working with the Vice President and the Secretary of Defense and the national security team
about what should be happening on the ground with our command structure.

He was very compassionate about conveying to the Governor of New York and the
Mayor of New York City, and to the Secretary of Defense, about the concern for the victims —
yet unknown, because at this point the building had not collapsed, and he — you know, he had
told Governor Pataki and Mayor Giuliani that we were with them.

Q Something that was happening in the sky was that the President had to give the
order to combat air patrol pilots.

SECRETARY CARD: Yes, he did. Very, very tough decision. And the President
understood the magnitude of that decision. , j ^f

Q How do you know that?

SECRETARY CARD: I was there when he was talking with the Vice President and the |
Secretary of Defense. And this was not an easy thing — you know, it's a decision that can't be |
made by others, other than the President. The President is the one that must give those orders.
And he understood the magnitude of the order.

But he was cognizant that we were at war, and that we had to defeat the enemy, even if
the enemy was using us as his weapon, the American people. And that was a great tragedy. But
this is unlike anything America has known, and hopefully we will never have to know it again.

Q And when Flight 93 went down, there was a period of uncertainty as to whether or
not —

SECRETARY CARD: Yes, there was.

Q - it had been shot down. How did he handle that?

SECRETARY CARD: We asked -- he asked the question, and word came back that it
didn't appear as if it had been shot down. And so there was some comfort in that. The
command-and-control structure within the Pentagon did not indicate that it had been shot down.

So -

Q How did he -

SECRETARY CARD: -- I don't think we really knew, but there were questions arising.
The fog of war suggested that we shouldn't take any answer to a question and assume it was
right. So I think we were — again, looking for the dust to settle.

The most intriguing, challenging part of the day was when we were in Nebraska, and
meeting with these high-ranking officials in the military. And the screens were all lit up with

little dots showing where planes were and what was happening in the skies, not just over the
United States but over the oceans and approaching the United States.

And you'd hear comments about tail numbers, and this plane was coming in from
Portugal. And it turned out — and it wasn't coming in from Portugal. And then there was a
plane that was headed towards Pittsburgh, and it wasn't heading towards Pittsburgh. So there
was a lot of misinformation, even from the FAA and some of the command-and-control structure
within the air control systems of our military.

It was a good lesson that the fog of war extends to those people who are fighting the war.

Q Well, maybe that's the moment — there's another picture, an official White
House photograph, of that NSC meeting, I guess, at Offutt. The President's there, there's the
bank of screens, you can see the Vice President up there. And you're sitting next to the
President, kind of turning around, and you're pointing at something there. Do you remember that
moment? What was that?

~SECRETARY CARD: I cannot remember what we were pointing at. I remember there
was a lot of information coming back and forth. I might have actually been pointing to say shut
the door — (laughter) — in the back of the room.

But we had gone — first we went into a large command-and-control center in Offutt.
And --

Q What's that like, by the way? We saw you all go down.

SECRETARY CARD: We went down, pretty far underground, pretty safe facility. And
lots of stars on shoulders, generals and admirals. And this is kind of a command center for the
military, and they were directing what was happening in our skies, and watching to make sure
the FAA was communicating well with the military, and that the Air Force jets that were in the
skies to protect us were in the right places and looking at the right planes coming in.

But it was very interesting. It was -- as you would expect, if you had seen movies about
command-and-contro] bunkers, I guess. But we moved from that very operational, tactical
environment, to a national security meeting that was conducted over secure video-
teleconferencing. And that's when the President made a lot of his command decisions, in terms
of strategic direction for the country. And it was following that meeting that he said it looks like
we could start heading back to Washington, D.C.

Q It was clear at that point that thejiation was at war.

SECRETARY CARD: I IbinkJl,w_as clear to the President that we were at war even
before_we left the elementary schoolin_F-kirkku- He talked about getting the enemy when we
were on the plane, flying to Louisiana. So I think he understood that this was a coordinated
attack, and that those who coordinated the attack were not the people on the planes. So — he

knew that there were other generals running around the world, and they were coordinating this
attack on the country. And he was going to get them.

Q And then, on the way back to Washington, he prepared for the.moment that the
President really has to step forward to do, and that's address the country.

SECRETARY CARD: Right. And that was a very - obviously, important decision for
the President to make. He was very anxious to address the country. And you remember when
we landed in Barksdale, he was anxious to talk to the American people. But they didn't have the
facilities there to do it. He spoke to them — to you, video — and then we knew that the video
would be sent off. We did not have the satellite trucks there so that he could beam up to a
satellite and go live into everyone's living room or their office.

So we were anxious to land where he could communicate with the American people, and
he did that in Barksdale. And the word got out very quickly from the meetings that we had in
Barksdale and the message that he sent to the American people and to the world. Then we flew
to Nebraska, and then we flew to Washington, D.C. And the decision was made before we left
Nebraska, actually, that he would make an address to the country once he landed in Washington,
D.C., provided the environment was safe. We were working with the Secret Service to make
sure Washington was a safe place for the President to be.

Q And how did he prepare for that speech?

SECRETARY CARD: The speech was being worked while we were in the air. The
President spoke with Karen Hughes from Air Force One, and we went over language. We have a
secure fax, so you could get information up to the plane. And he reviewed the comments, he
made a number of edits and suggestions, a lot of words going back and forth.

And when we landed, the President was able to go over those words again when he first
met in the Situation Room — actually in the PEOC, the President's Emergency Operations
Center. And then went up, just off the Oval Office, and he finalized his words and he addressed
the American people from the Oval Office.

Q Take a step back. A lot of people say the President changed as a result of
September 11th. Even polls, in some ways, reflect that. He seems to have permanently changed
Americans' notion of his capabilities and his leadership. What do you say to that?

SECRETARY CARD: I've known the President for a long time, and I can honestly say
he did not change on September 11th. But there was a giant spotlight that shined on him, and
more people got to see what those of us who have known him for a long time have seen for a
long time: that he is a man of great discipline, great leadership, great compassion, and has great

So — the attack on September llth clearly changed all of us. It changed America, it
changed the world. And I'm sure it did change George W. Bush a little bit. But really what it
did was show George Bush for who he is: a good, strong leader, with character and commitment

and compassion. And he was able to take those characteristics and bring them to a leadership
capacity that the world cried out for at that moment. And I'm glad he was there to be the leader
at that moment.

Q Great, thank you.