Former President George W. Bush said he tried to “project a sense of calm” in the first moments following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Bush spoke about his initial reactions in an interview meant to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the attacks.
He learned that a plane had crashed into the first tower of the World Trade Center just before entering a classroom in Florida for a scheduled event.
“My first reaction was, either the weather was bad or something extraordinary happened to the pilot,” Bush said in the interview. “I then informed some of my staff members to provide support to New York City, whatever help they needed, to take care of this incident, and then walked into the classroom,” he said.
President Bush said he made the decision at that point to “project a sense of calm” following the news.
That day “obviously changed my presidency,” Bush says in a clip from a longer interview that will air as part of the National Geographic Channel’s “Remembering 9/11” documentary.
Bush said that one of his first concerns following news of the attacks was locating his wife and two daughters. “It took awhile to find [Laura]; she was in a secure location,” Bush said. “It was awesome to hear her comforting voice.”
When Bush traveled to New York City for the first time following the terrorist attacks, his route was lined with people. “It was a real sign of solidarity,” Bush said. “As [then-New York mayor] Rudy [Giuliani] pointed out, that’s a unique moment. ‘Most of them didn’t vote for you,’ is what he told me. Which I thought was pretty funny. … As I told a friend, it’s the first time I’ve ever been in New York where they waved with all five fingers.”
The documentary interview was filmed, by coincidence, shortly after the death of Osama bin Laden at the beginning of May. Bush talks about the “sense of gratitude that justice had been done” he felt after President Obama called him with the news.
The hourlong program airs on the National Geographic
Channel Aug. 28.
Watch part of the interview below.