A newly published account of the events aboard Air Force One on 9/11 provides more behind-the-scenes detail about the harrowing day chronicled by an aide to former president George W. Bush.
Ari Fleischer, who was press secretary at the time, provided six pages of handwritten notes to Yahoo News’ Olivier Knox and Reuters’ Steve Holland, who were also aboard that day, albeit in the press cabin.
As Knox writes in his story, the notes reveal – or at least remind – how uncertainty racked the country and of course Air Force One on an hour-by-hour basis with false reports that the president’s plane was a target, a car bomb was at the State Department and a plane had crashed near Camp David.
“Fighters scrambled, escorted down one plane near Washington,” Fleischer wrote at 10:20 a.m. “The comm. equip is good but not great / authorized shoot down if necessary.”
He writes at the same time that Bush’s chief of staff Andy Card reported the plane was heading up to 45,000 feet. “they claim we can outrun anybody,” Fleischer reported Card said.
The notes recount how Bush’s daughters were moved to a safe house and how Bush even inquired after his dog Barney.
“He’s nipping at the heels of Osama bin Laden now,” Card told him.
They also reveal Bush’s steely determination to go after the terrorists responsible for the two hijacked planes crashing into – and felling — the World Trade Center towers, another slamming into the Pentagon and a fourth crashing into a Pennsylvania field.
“We’re at war,” Bush said at 9:45, minutes after the Pentagon explosion. “That’s what we’re paid 4, boys. We’re going 2 take care of this. When we find out who did this, they’re not going 2 like me as president.
“Somebody’s going 2 pay.”
Fleischer released the notes for the first time to mark the 15th anniversary of the attacks.