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Interestingly, Barksdale was in the middle of a major, annual drill named Global Guardian. Real nuclear weapons were taken out of storage sites and loaded (triggers not armed) onto B-52s. The drill simulated what do if a rogue nation attacked the US with nukes.
When the base commander was first told about the World Trade Center being hit, he thought it was part of the drill.
12:25 POTUS was in Base Commander General Tom Keck's office, on the phone with the VP.
"We're at Barksdale AFB being well treated. I see four aircraft lost. I think it's important for the people to see the government is functioning because the TV shows our nation has been blasted and bombed."
"Government is not chaotic. It's functioning smoothly. We're going to get the bastards."
Bush continued to Cheney, "You're doing great. I'll stay in touch with you. It's the new war. It's the faceless coward that attacks."
Here's the scene from Keck's office as the President was working on his remarks to the nation that he would deliver from Barksdale:
Bush taped an address to the nation from Barksdale, in front of the White House press pool. Due to the technology of the time, the speech could not be broadcast live. Some in the media faulted Bush for speaking too slowly and not looking strong.

12:40 Bush returned to Keck's office, as AFOne refueled and loaded up with supplies, including 25 pounds of banannas.
(I didn't eat any) We had no idea how long we would be out of Washigton.
"I can't wait to find out who did it," Bush said to me and Andy Card and other staffers. "It's going to take a while and we're not going to have a little slap on the wrist crap."
12:55 The President calls NY Senator Chuck Schumer: "It's a sad day for America. My condolences go to everyone in New York. The government is functioning. We'll come together. God bless."
Bush calls Defense Secretary Rumsfeld: "It's a day of national tragedy and we'll clean up the mess and then the ball will be in your court and [incoming chairman of the joint chiefs] Dick Myers' court to respond."
1:05 Bush is told by General Keck of an intell report that just came in from Stratcomm (US Strategic Command) warning that a high speed object was heading for his ranch in Texas. Bush orders his ranch evacuated. It turned out to be a crop duster and another false alarm.
1:15 We left Barksdale for our next location. Here is the scence as Air Force security forces protect the permiter. (The only USSS we had were those on the plane. Typically, a huge crew is flown in ahead of us. Not on 9/11)
Our next stop would be Offutt Air Force Base, @Offutt_AFB, in Nebraska where they had the facilities 1) host a secure multi-location TV video call of the National Security Council and 2) put the POTUS and WH staff up overnight if necessary.
@Offutt_AFB Just before leaving Barksdale, Andy Card told me we were going to reduce the number of people on AFOne to essential people only. That meant no Congressmen, half the WH staff had to leave, and he wanted me to reduce the pres corps from 13 people to 3.
@Offutt_AFB I asked Andy if we could make it 5, knowing how the pool worked and how many reporters we really needed. He said fine, just do it.
@Offutt_AFB A young aide in the press office, @GordonJohndroe, had to tell the 8 reporters the bad news that they were going to be left behind on the most important news day of their career. They didn't like it.
@Offutt_AFB @GordonJohndroe One reporter, then with Time Magazine, screamed "Who's in charge? The military or the civilians?" Another quiety said, "But Ari, what about us?" wondering how they would get home. (Another airforce plane took them back to DC)
@Offutt_AFB @GordonJohndroe The five reporters who remained on board were:
@sonyagal (Sonya Ross) of the AP
@dougmillsnyt a NYT photographer
@AnnCompton of ABC
Cameraman George Christiansen
Soundman Erik Washington
@Offutt_AFB @GordonJohndroe @sonyagal @dougmillsnyt @AnnCompton Here's a photo I found online of @sonyagal earlier that day as she was watching events on TV in the press cabin aboard AF One. I suspect that's when one of the towers fell, but I don't know. That's @AnnCompton with her note pad right behind Sonya.
@Offutt_AFB @GordonJohndroe @sonyagal @dougmillsnyt @AnnCompton 1:20 As we flew to Offut, Bush called Cheney: "Let's have a 4:00 NSC (National Security Council) meeting. Our focus hsould be to find these people and get them."

Bush added, "I can assure you I'd like to come how now. Tonight would be great."
@Offutt_AFB @GordonJohndroe @sonyagal @dougmillsnyt @AnnCompton 1:25 Bush turned to the head of his USSS detail, Eddie Marinzel:
@Offutt_AFB @GordonJohndroe @sonyagal @dougmillsnyt @AnnCompton Bush: "I want to go back home ASAP. I don't what whoever this is holding me outside of Washington."

Eddie: "Our people are saying it's too unsteady still."

Bush: "Cheney says it's not safe yet as well."

Andy: "The right thing is to let the dust settle."
@Offutt_AFB @GordonJohndroe @sonyagal @dougmillsnyt @AnnCompton 1:35 Bush said to staff, "This Administration will spend whatever is necessary to find, hunt down and destory whoever did this."
@Offutt_AFB @GordonJohndroe @sonyagal @dougmillsnyt @AnnCompton 2:25 Bush calls Mayor Giuliani and NY Governor Pataki: "Our sympathies are with you and the people of New York. I know your heart is broken and your city is strained. Anything we can do to help you, let me know."

And then Bush warned them to beware of a second wave of attacks.
@Offutt_AFB @GordonJohndroe @sonyagal @dougmillsnyt @AnnCompton 2:58 Shortly before we landed at Offutt, Bush said to the head of his USSS detail, Eddie Marinzel, "We need to get back to Washington. We don't need some tin horn terrorist to scare us off. The American people want to know where their dang president is."
@Offutt_AFB @GordonJohndroe @sonyagal @dougmillsnyt @AnnCompton 3:10 AFOne lands at Offutt where the President would convene a meeting of the national security counsel via teleconference.

We landed and parked next to a Doomsday plane. What a place to park on a day like that.
@Offutt_AFB @GordonJohndroe @sonyagal @dougmillsnyt @AnnCompton The doomsday plane is a modified 747. During the Cold War, we had a fleet of these planes airborne 24/7. In the event of a Soviet first strike that destroyed all/most of our ground based command centers, a retaliatory nuclear strike could be commanded from the Doomsday planes.
@Offutt_AFB @GordonJohndroe @sonyagal @dougmillsnyt @AnnCompton It was jarring to see it as we exited the plane that day.
@Offutt_AFB @GordonJohndroe @sonyagal @dougmillsnyt @AnnCompton We were told we might spend the night at Offutt. Here's a picture of the President, the USSS and the WH staff heading toward the underground command center at @Offutt_AFB
@Offutt_AFB @GordonJohndroe @sonyagal @dougmillsnyt @AnnCompton We didn't go through the front door to get there. Instead, we entered this odd looking cinderblock "outhouse" of a building that led to a staircase that descended deep underground. I hear @Offutt_AFB has a front door. One day, I need to see it.
@Offutt_AFB @GordonJohndroe @sonyagal @dougmillsnyt @AnnCompton Here's a picture of POTUS in the command center during the NSC meeting.
@Offutt_AFB @GordonJohndroe @sonyagal @dougmillsnyt @AnnCompton 4:15 The President leaves the command center, ready at last to get back to DC.
@Offutt_AFB @GordonJohndroe @sonyagal @dougmillsnyt @AnnCompton 4:26 POTUS looks at his milaide, Lt. Col. Tom Gould and says it's time to go.
@Offutt_AFB @GordonJohndroe @sonyagal @dougmillsnyt @AnnCompton 4:30 President Bush calls Mrs. Bush and says, "I'm coming home. See you at the White House. I love you...go on home."

He added, "If I'm in the White House and there's a plane coming my way, all I can say is I hope I read my Bible that day."
@Offutt_AFB @GordonJohndroe @sonyagal @dougmillsnyt @AnnCompton On the flight home, the President called Karen Hughes to discuss his Oval Office address to the nation. He told her to emphasize that "we will find these people and they will suffer the consequences of taking on this nation. We will do what it takes."
@Offutt_AFB @GordonJohndroe @sonyagal @dougmillsnyt @AnnCompton He continued, "Everyone must understand this will not stand." He expressed his gratitude to world leaders and noted the world is united against terrorism.

"No one is going to diminish the spirit of this country," he said.
@Offutt_AFB @GordonJohndroe @sonyagal @dougmillsnyt @AnnCompton He also called to express his condolences to Ted Olson, the Solicitor General, whose wife Barbara died aboard flight 77 earlier that day.
@Offutt_AFB @GordonJohndroe @sonyagal @dougmillsnyt @AnnCompton He called his father to see how he was doing and he asked 41 where he was. His father said Milwaukee. Why are you in Milwaukee, Bush 43 asked. "You grounded my plane," 41 said.
@Offutt_AFB @GordonJohndroe @sonyagal @dougmillsnyt @AnnCompton As we were flying home, we again picked up fighter escorts. Normally when we fly in the U.S., we don't have fighter escorts. On 9/11, Air Force One had fighters. It was sureal. Here's what it looked like from Air Force One:
@Offutt_AFB @GordonJohndroe @sonyagal @dougmillsnyt @AnnCompton We landed at Andrews a little after 6:30. The President boarded Marine One and we took a route back to the WH that went over the Capitol, down the mall, banked right at the Washigton Monument and landed on the South Lawn. It's the most beautiful route to fly.
@Offutt_AFB @GordonJohndroe @sonyagal @dougmillsnyt @AnnCompton As we banked right at the monument, the smoldering Pentagon came into site for POTUS as he sat on the left side of Marine One. "The mightiest building in the world is on fire. That's the 21st century war you just witnessed," he said aloud, addressing no one in particular.
@Offutt_AFB @GordonJohndroe @sonyagal @dougmillsnyt @AnnCompton Here is Marine One's approach to the White House that evening:
@Offutt_AFB @GordonJohndroe @sonyagal @dougmillsnyt @AnnCompton The President walked from Marine One into the Oval Office and straight into his private study where staffers were waiting for him. He wanted to get ready for his 8:30 address to the nation and then another meeting of the National Security Council after the speech.
@Offutt_AFB @GordonJohndroe @sonyagal @dougmillsnyt @AnnCompton I returned to my office where a relatively small number of reporters was waiting. Most WH reporters were stranded in Sarasota, FL, unable to get back to DC for days. I filled the press in and answered their questions.
8:30 The President addressed the nation from the Oval Office. He said the US would make no distinction between the terrorists who attacked and those who harbored them. c-span.org/video/?165970-…. Four minutes long.
After his speech was over, I walked with the President to the PEOC (Presidential Emergency Operations Center) under the White House where the National Security Council convened.
When we got there - surely the safest spot in the White House, which is already a very safe spot - I saw some of the USSS with long guns ready. Unbelievable. Long guns out and ready inside the WH.
I don’t remember what time I got home that night. I do know that we live in a great country and I will forever think of those who lost their lives and their loved ones. I’ll always be grateful to the police, firemen and military.
That’s what I did on September 11, 2001. May God Bless America.
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