Heart-stopping words Andrew Card whispered to George Bush as he read to children on 9/11

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By James Kay

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On September 11, 2001, then-President George Bush was sat in front of a classroom full of children when he received the news that the World Trade Center had been the target of a terrorist attack.

As reports of the attacks began to flood in, chaos engulfed New York City, tragically leading to the deaths of 2,996 people.

President Bush was visiting Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, reading a book to young students when Andrew Card had to report to him what had happened.

In a room filled with students, teachers, and photographers, Card leaned over to the President during a reading exercise and whispered two chilling sentences into his ear.

GettyImages-1339505.jpgThe World Trade Center was one of the targets on 9/11. Credit: Robert Giroux/Getty

"Andy Card comes up behind me and says, 'Second plane has hit the second tower. America's under attack'...and I'm watching a child read," Bush recalled in the BBC documentary 9/11: Inside the President's War Room.

"I could see the horror etched on the face of the news people who had just gotten the same news."

Card later reflected on the difficulty of his task. "I had to deliver a message that the President didn't expect to hear, and that was almost unbelievable," he said. "But it also, literally, was the message that he had to hear. Whether he wanted to or not."

Footage of this historical moment shows Bush maintaining his composure despite the gravity of the news. Apart from a few nervous glances and tightening his grip on the children’s book, he remained poised.

"During a crisis, it's really important to set a tone and not to panic," Bush explained.


"So I waited for the appropriate moment to leave the classroom - I didn't want to do anything dramatic. I didn't want to lurch out of the chair and scare the classroom full of children, so I waited."

After leaving the classroom, Bush's team converted it into a makeshift command center, where he addressed the nation before boarding Air Force One.

"Obviously, the words I used with the president were grave words," Card said. "When you say America is under attack, that’s a pretty serious comment to tell the person responsible for protecting the country. So I knew the situation was serious - grave - and that there were a lot of things unknown. But nevertheless, I tried to be very, very deliberate and focused and cool, calm and collected."

GettyImages-1339521.jpg2,996 people died on 9/11. Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty

By the time they boarded Air Force One, the attack on the Pentagon had occurred, and United Airlines Flight 93 was heading towards Washington, D.C.

"We were going through all those emotions," Card recounted.

"We didn’t know how many victims there were. Estimates were floating around as many as 10,000 people would have died at the World Trade Center and you didn’t know if there were other attacks coming."

Featured image credit: Robert Giroux/Getty

Heart-stopping words Andrew Card whispered to George Bush as he read to children on 9/11

vt-author-image

By James Kay

Article saved!Article saved!

On September 11, 2001, then-President George Bush was sat in front of a classroom full of children when he received the news that the World Trade Center had been the target of a terrorist attack.

As reports of the attacks began to flood in, chaos engulfed New York City, tragically leading to the deaths of 2,996 people.

President Bush was visiting Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, reading a book to young students when Andrew Card had to report to him what had happened.

In a room filled with students, teachers, and photographers, Card leaned over to the President during a reading exercise and whispered two chilling sentences into his ear.

GettyImages-1339505.jpgThe World Trade Center was one of the targets on 9/11. Credit: Robert Giroux/Getty

"Andy Card comes up behind me and says, 'Second plane has hit the second tower. America's under attack'...and I'm watching a child read," Bush recalled in the BBC documentary 9/11: Inside the President's War Room.

"I could see the horror etched on the face of the news people who had just gotten the same news."

Card later reflected on the difficulty of his task. "I had to deliver a message that the President didn't expect to hear, and that was almost unbelievable," he said. "But it also, literally, was the message that he had to hear. Whether he wanted to or not."

Footage of this historical moment shows Bush maintaining his composure despite the gravity of the news. Apart from a few nervous glances and tightening his grip on the children’s book, he remained poised.

"During a crisis, it's really important to set a tone and not to panic," Bush explained.


"So I waited for the appropriate moment to leave the classroom - I didn't want to do anything dramatic. I didn't want to lurch out of the chair and scare the classroom full of children, so I waited."

After leaving the classroom, Bush's team converted it into a makeshift command center, where he addressed the nation before boarding Air Force One.

"Obviously, the words I used with the president were grave words," Card said. "When you say America is under attack, that’s a pretty serious comment to tell the person responsible for protecting the country. So I knew the situation was serious - grave - and that there were a lot of things unknown. But nevertheless, I tried to be very, very deliberate and focused and cool, calm and collected."

GettyImages-1339521.jpg2,996 people died on 9/11. Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty

By the time they boarded Air Force One, the attack on the Pentagon had occurred, and United Airlines Flight 93 was heading towards Washington, D.C.

"We were going through all those emotions," Card recounted.

"We didn’t know how many victims there were. Estimates were floating around as many as 10,000 people would have died at the World Trade Center and you didn’t know if there were other attacks coming."

Featured image credit: Robert Giroux/Getty