The President's response

WASHINGTON: The White House communications staff spent last Tuesday

juggling its obligation to inform the country with its duty to protect

it, all the while preparing remarks for President Bush and struggling to

get him back to Washington, DC.

Press secretary Ari Fleischer and deputy director of communications Dan

Bartlett began the day alongside the President at an elementary school

in Sarasota, FL; director of communications Karen Hughes was at the

White House.

But Bartlett was on the phone with Hughes by 9:15am, moments after the

President was told that two planes had crashed into the World Trade


The duo quickly crafted remarks for Bush to deliver 15 minutes later in

the school's media center.

Shortly after those remarks were made, a credible threat was phoned into

the White House, naming it and Air Force One as the next targets. Bush -

along with Bartlett, Fleischer, and a small pool of reporters - were

rushed aboard the plane and flown to Barksdale Air Force Base in


The White House was largely evacuated, though Hughes remained in the

Situation Room alongside VP Cheney and others.

Air Force One touched down shortly after noon at Barksdale, and the

President recorded another statement - believed to have been composed by

Bartlett and Hughes - in the air by phone.

As the public's clamoring for information grew louder, Fleischer held

the first of two short press briefings on board Air Force One at


After making a statement regarding Bush's Barksdale comments, Fleischer

answered fewer than a dozen questions, wrapping up the briefing in five


The primary briefing of the day, however, came from Hughes at 3:45pm,

who met reporters at FBI headquarters and offered a comprehensive

overview of government activity. She left without fielding questions,

which elicited harsh criticism from the press.

After a short stay in Nebraska, the President, Bartlett, and Fleischer

were back in the air for the final time, now destined for Washington,

DC. As Fleischer gave the day's second and final briefing at 5:30pm -

speaking to the press for six minutes - Hughes and speechwriter Michael

Gershon sat in the White House, composing the remarks Bush would deliver

to the nation that evening.

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