Before going into a classroom at Emma T. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, FL, George W. Bush knew of the first plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center. At approximately 9:06 a.m., Chief of Staff Andrew Card walked into the room and leaned into the President’s ear informing him of an attack on the South Tower of the World Trade Center. The president didn’t stop what he was doing. He continued to read and finish what he promised the children – story time.
After he finished reading, Air Force One whisked him to a secure location and he continued to move between secure locations all over the country throughout the day.
Did he make the right choices that day? Should he have attended to a nation in need? Should he have gotten up in the middle of reading and jumped into his motorcade to be briefed on the new developments?
I don’t remember much from that horrifying day or much of Bush’s actions in the coming days after the attacks, but his choice to stay in the classroom and keep his commitment to the children is one that I admire and one that every American should see as truly presidential.
The president had people poking and prodding him (more than usual) from all directions up until his visit to the school that day. His choice to stick to his schedule and give the children of Booker Elementary the time they deserved demonstrates his unwavering commitment to the highest office throughout the land and to this beloved country.
President Bush’s unwavering commitment doesn’t solely stem from this one instance. He went to Ground Zero and addressed many of the first responders amid the dust and rubble that had yet to be cleaned up. He spoke into the bullhorn with conviction and the spirit of America behind him.
In the middle of the short speech someone in the crowd shouted out “we can’t hear you!” He responded with, “I can hear you! I can hear you; the rest of the world hears you! And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.”
I couldn’t think of a better response to the shouts of the first responders, as not only was it directed to them but to the American people as well.
The president saying, “I can hear you” is one of the greatest moments in the days following Sept. 11. Those words exemplified his undying passion to his country and his extraordinary guidance through the tumultuous time.
He threw out the first pitch at a Yankees game in front of a standing room only crowd just weeks after the attacks. It was an act that signaled to the American people, “we are back on the road to recovery.” Author David Foster said, “I watched him, and he was my representative,” after seeing the president throw the pitch. I can’t think of a better representative for the time either.
At this current moment I do not feel safer than I did 10 years ago. The current leadership does not instill peace of mind in me like the leadership of President Bush and his team. President Bush’s decision to remain the publicly visible civil servant that he was throughout the crisis was one that cannot be matched.
From the classroom to the hallowed grounds of Ground Zero to the baseball diamond at Yankee Stadium, George W. Bush impressed upon every American a duly dedicated American president with actions that cannot be matched.