Andrew Card, Chief of Staff to President Bush, Visits Central NY to Remember 9/11
Ever wonder what it was like to be next to President George W. Bush when he learned America was under attack? Andrew Card, who was the one to tell the president, told a group of Central New Yorkers what happened on that fateful day 22 years ago.
The Genesis Group welcomed Mr. Card, the former White House Chief of Staff, as the keynote speaker to its 22nd annual 9/11 Remembrance Breakfast.
It was revealed at that breakfast Mr. Card had turned down a several prestigious speaking opportunities in favor of appearing at the Hart's Hill Inn in Whitesboro.
The reason? Outside of New York City, the Genesis Group hosts the largest 9/11 remembrance ceremony. Mr. Card also joked that he was asked a year ago to speak, which shows just how much time and effort was put into coordinating the former White House official's visit.
The perfect day
Mr. Card described the hours before the world as we knew changed forever. "September 11 was the perfect day," he described, saying that the sun was shining bright that morning and not a cloud could be found in the sky.
Mr. Card continued to share how former President Bush prepared for his morning jog against a known long-distance runner and outran the outlet, because as Mr. Card described, the Bush family is "a little competitive."
Then it was off to Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, to read a book to eager second graders.
Mr. Card revealed that before the president sat with the class, they received reports of a small craft striking the World Trade Center. At the time, the officials expressed sympathy for the pilot and felt the incident was a tragic accident.
Little did they know that, only a short while later, it was learned that it was a jetliner that collided with the building. And then another one hit.
It was at that moment Mr. Card knew in his gut that Osama Bin Laden was behind what was happening. During that time, he had already started dispatching calls to the Secretary of Defense, the Vice President, and other high-ranking officials to get them on the line.
All that was left was to inform the Commander in Chief.
"America is under attack"
Mr. Card recalled exactly what was going through his mind as he stepped into the classroom and slowly approached the president, who had been chatting with the students and promoting the importance of getting a good education. He also recalled several members of the press looking at him curiously to see why he was in the room at all.
The former official said he finally spoke to the president when the children were picking up their copies of "My Pet Goat" to read along with the president. He whispered these famous words into George W. Bush's ear, "A second plane hit the second tower. America is under attack."
Mr. Card recalled that he hoped the president would not get up and walk out of the reading, which is exactly what former President Bush didn't do. Instead, his boss remained seated and continually bobbed his head in thought even as Mr. Card exited the room.
After the president finished reading to the schoolkids, he joined Mr. Card and colleagues to speak with the military, his vice president, and the other officials that were waiting for his cue.
Mr. Card recalled running around the building several times to coordinate the president's exit from Emma E. Booker Elementary School. He informed administration that had prepped the area where President Bush was to speak to the public about the current situation before racing back to his boss.
Mr. Bush did fulfill his obligation to speak to the school and delivered his equally-famous minute-long speech, where he spoke of what happened and vowed to "hunt down" those responsible.
As you can see in the video, the former president was then ushered to the airport.
Mr. Card recalled a policy "no-no" as they approached the presidential jet - the engines were roaring full blast. He revealed it's procedure for the engines to turn on after the president is safely on the plane.
Mr. Card noted the plane left the tarmac so fast, officials were still closing the doors. He then learned why there was such a major breach of protocol - the Pentagon had been attacked.
Recalling a day more memorable than 9/11
Mr. Card said there was only one other day more memorable than September 11, 2011 -- it was that Friday, September 14.
WIBX was on hand to film this portion of his speech.
Mr. Card also took time to salute The Genesis Group for keeping the memory of those we lost 22 years ago alive.
We still remember
One of the many takeaways of the remembrance breakfast was Mr. Card's observation of how the younger generations view this national tragedy. "They treat it like a video game," he explained.
He noted how some make light of the incident or seek out videos to replay over and over again.
However, he touched very briefly on his subject.
One other takeaway was about Flight 93, which failed to reach its target and instead crashed into a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. During that hijacked flight, 40 heroic passengers stood up against terrorism and overpowered the four al-Qaeda terrorists who seized control of the plane.
"The very first heroes of the War on Terror were all civilians. They were on flight 93."
For questions or comments, please visit the Genesis Group's website.