White House Emails on 9/11: 'Today Is Pearl Harbor'

'Turn on CNN,' reads one
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 10, 2015 10:13 AM CDT
President Bush speaks to Vice President Dick Cheney by phone aboard Air Force One after departing Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, on Sept. 11, 2001.   (AP Photo/The White House, Eric Draper, HO)

(Newser) – Exactly 14 years ago tomorrow, officials at the White House started their day like any other. Karl Rove asked an assistant for morning news reports. An aide sent out copies of President Bush's talking points for an education event. Then, White House emails obtained by the New York Times—though incomplete—show all turned to shock, confusion, and horror as planes began crashing. A sampling:

  • 8:56am: "Turn on CNN," Tucker Eskew of the media affairs office tells three colleagues.
  • 9:20am: "Today is Pearl Harbor," conservative writer David Horowitz emails Mary Matalin, counselor to Dick Cheney.
  • 12:13pm: "Are you safe?" the sister of Clay Johnson, Bush's close friend, says in a message. "Hard to fathom what’s going on today. Hope you and [sic] safe and sound."

  • 1:10pm: Karen Hughes, Bush's counselor, receives an email from her pastor and friend Douglas Fletcher. "I am in disbelief. You are in my prayers as is the president. I realize that were a country behind this, we would now be at war," he writes. "I love you, Doug."
  • 5:07pm: "Unbelievable," Johnson replies to his sister. "Just got back into the White House, after having been in the 'bunker' all afternoon." Minutes later, she replies, asking about security there. "If it's safe enough for the president to return to, it's safe enough for me," Johnson says.
  • 7:59pm: "The speech was extraordinarily good," Stuart Bowen, the deputy White House staff secretary tells Hughes as drafts of Bush's soon-to-be-delivered speech are exchanged. "Even more impressive is that you wrote it under unprecedented constraints, given the time and nightmarish circumstances involved."
Read more at the Times. (Read more 9/11 attacks stories.)

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