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Ari Fleischer @AriFleischer
, 23 tweets, 6 min read Read on Twitter
When we landed, we parked next to a Doomsday plane. Doomsday planes are modified 747s that, in the Cold War, flew 24/7 as airborne based command posts that could respond to a Soviet attack, even if most land-based assets were destroyed in a Soviet first-strike.
We didn't know how long we would remain at Offutt, although POTUS had no intention of staying long. USSS would have preferred he spent the night there. Bush wanted to get back. Here's the scene:
We entered the facility through an obscure, small concrete block of an outpost, which I later learned was a fire escape. We descended down, deep into the earth. One of these days I want to return to @Offutt_AFB to go through its front door.
The President convened a meeting of the National Security Council from Offutt's command center. The room resembled something out of Matthew Broderick movie "Wargames".
4:15: POTUS leaves the command center. As he was leaving, we learned of two international flights that weren't responding to the call to turn around and not enter American airspace. Two more missiles we had to worry about. Fortunately, they later responded and turned around.
4:26: POTUS turns to his military aide and says he's going back to Washington. At that point, I don't think President Bush cared what the USSS said. He was ready to get back to DC.
Thru much of the day, Brian Williams of NBC and Peter Jennings of ABC were very critical of Bush for not coming back to DC sooner. I don't think either one realized the security implications of landing POTUS at known locations like Andrews or the WH until we knew it was safe.
On 9/12, I called Williams to tell him how wrong he was, I mentioned the "Angel is next" call. He asked if he could report it and I said yes.

As a sidenote, TV news prior to 9/12 did not include the scawl at the bottom with words about running news events. That began on 9/12.
The "Angel is next" news appeared almost immediately on NBC's scrawl. The rest of the WH press corps were furious with me for giving an "exclusvie" to NBC about something so important. Some days there's just no winning with the press.
4:30: President Bush calls Mrs. Bush, saying, "I'm coming home. See you at the WH. Love you...go on home."

He added, "If I'm in the WH and there's a plane coming my way, all I can say is I hope I read my Bible that day."
4:55 The President called his father and he also called Ted Olsen, the Solicitor General who lost his wife that day. I slipped out of his cabin so he could have privacy for both calls.
5:05: Bush called Karen Hughes, Councelor to the President for communciations, to tell her what he wanted to say in his address to the nation that night.

He told her, "We will find these people and they will suffer the consequences of taking on this nation."
"Everyone must understand this will not stand." He expressed his gratitude to world leaders who expressed support for the US and said "the world is uniting against terrorism."

"No one is going to diminish the spirit of this country" he said.
We flew back to Washington with an F-16 figher escort. That's a rare event for Air Force One, especially when flying over the United States.
6:45: Air Force One landed back at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, D.C.
We boarded Marine One for the flight to the WH. Our route took us over the Capitol, down the Mall and we banked right at the Washington Monument. As we banked, POTUS could see the burning Pentsgon out his window.
“The mightiest building in the world is on fire” he said aloud to no one in particular. “That’s the 21st century was you just witnessed.”
6:58 We got back to the WH and the President gathered with aides in his private dining room off the Oval Office to talk about the day and to discuss that night's speech.
Bush's Oval Office address was scheduled for 8:30pm. POTUS went back to the residence to see Mrs. Bush and to get ready for the speech. I went back to my office, where I was greeted by a small contingent of WH reporters. Many WH reporters were stuck in FL, unable to get home.
8:30 Bush addressed the nation from the Oval: "A great people have been moved to defend a great nation. Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America." (Four minutes)
After the speech was over, I walked with POTUS to the PEOC (Presidential Emergency Operations Center) where he would attend a meeting of the National Security Council. When we got there, some of the USSS had long guns. That was an amazing site to see in the safety of the WH.
I returned to my office and gathered with my staff. We talked about what happened and how they were doing. I have no idea what time I left to drive home.

That's what I did on September 11, 2001.

May God Bless the United States of America.
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