Fri., July 29, 2011 9:00am (EDT)

In Interview, President Bush Explains His Initial Sept. 11 Reaction
By Eyder Peralta
Updated: 3 years ago

One of the strking moments of news photography from Sept. 11 came when President George W. Bush received news that a second plane had crashed into the Twin Towers in New York City.

Bush was at an event at Florida elementary school when White House Chief of Staff Andy Card came into the room, walked over to the president and told him the country "was under attack."

In an interview with National Geographic Channel, Bush says the reaction that followed was a conscious effort to project calm. National Geographic interviewed the president over two days as part of a week of shows airing in August that mark the 10th anniversary of the attacks.

Reuters reports on the five minutes of the interview the network aired during a session for the Television Critics Association:

"My first reaction was anger. Who the hell would do that to America? Then I immediately focused on the children, and the contrast between the attack and the innocence of children," Bush says in an excerpt of the interview shown to television writers on Thursday.

Bush said he could see the news media at the back of the classroom getting the news on their own cellphones "and it was like watching a silent movie."

Bush said he quickly realized that a lot of people beyond the classroom would be watching for his reaction.

"So I made the decision not to jump up immediately and leave the classroom. I didn't want to rattle the kids. I wanted to project a sense of calm," he said of his decision to remain seated and silent.

"I had been in enough crises to know that the first thing a leader has to do is to project calm," he added.

The Los Angeles Times reports that National Geographic's George W. Bush: the 9/11 interview will air Aug. 28.


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