The Children Of 9/11

Time Magazine has an interesting piece as part of its special edition on the death of Osama bin Laden about the children who were with President Bush when first learned of the September 11th attacks:

There has rarely been a starker juxtaposition of evil and innocence than the moment President George W. Bush received the news about 9/11 while reading The Pet Goat with second-graders in Sarasota, Florida.

Seven-year-olds can’t understand what Islamic terrorism is all about. But they know when an adult’s face is telling them something is very wrong — and none of the students sitting in Sandra Kay Daniels’ class at Emma E. Booker Elementary School that morning can forget the sudden, devastated change in Bush’s expression when White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card whispered the terrible news of the Al Qaeda attack. Lazaro Dubrocq’s heart started racing because he assumed they were all in big trouble — with no less than the Commander-in-Chief — but he wasn’t quite sure why. “In a heartbeat he leaned back and he looked flabbergasted, shocked, horrified,” recalls Dubrocq, now 17. “I was baffled. I mean, did we read something wrong? Was he mad or disappointed in us?”

All sorts of similar kid fears started running through Mariah Williams’ head. “I don’t remember the story we were reading — was it about pigs?” says Williams, 16. “But I’ll always remember watching his face turn red. He got really serious all of a sudden. But I was clueless. I was just seven. I’m just glad he didn’t get up and leave because then I would have been more scared and confused.” Chantal Guerrero, 16, agrees: even today she’s grateful that Bush regained his composure and stayed with the students until The Pet Goat was finished. “I think the President was trying to keep us from finding out,” says Guerrero, “so we all wouldn’t freak out.”


One thing they’d like to tell Bush’s critics — like liberal filmmaker Michael Moore, whose 2004 documentary Fahrenheit 911 disparaged Bush for lingering almost 10 minutes with the Booker students after getting word that two planes had crashed into New York’s World Trade Center — is that they think the President did the right thing. “I think he was trying to keep everybody calm, starting with us,” says Guerrero. Dubrocq agrees: “I think he was trying to protect us.” Booker Principal Gwendolyn Tose’-Rigell, who died in 2007, later insisted, “I don’t think anyone could have handled it better. What would it have served if [Bush] had jumped out of his chair and ran out of the room?”

It’s interesting to hear this kind of perspective from someone who was actually in the room when the event we’ve seen replayed countless times actually happened, isn’t it?
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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Dave says:

    I sure I won’t be the first or last to say this, but who gives a flip about not wanting to scare a classroom of 7 year olds? Why would he POSSIBLY be concerned with not freaking them out? These kids need to realize that the President’s world didn’t, and shouldn’t have, revolved on them September 11 of 2001. Generation Z indeed.

  2. Yet another disillusioned pawn says:

    With all due respect to Dave, I disagree. At that particular moment, the most important thing for President Bush to do was to consider those children. There was nothing at all that he could about the events happening in New York and other places on the East coast, but there was something that he could do for those children–stay calm and finish what he came to do. He made the right decision–one of very few I give him credit for.

  3. Dave says:

    You really don’t think there was anything to do in the 10 minutes following the World Trade Center attack? Dick Cheney, Condi Rice and a massive team of security staffers were all huddled in the Situation Room. Of course they were making important decisions—decisions like whether or not to scramble fighter jets to shoot down civilian aircraft.

  4. James V Feragola says:

    This has been discussed before. You do not just “Move” the president, unless the place he currently is becomes unsafe. That being said, the process for an unplanned move of the president takes several minutes to accomplish, even obama’s secrete service guys haven’t figured out how to teleport, they still have to actually walk to the car, clear the area, drive the car to the pick up point. Bush followed the protocol, he waited for his security detail to tell him when to move, which is exactly what they would do today. And for the record, it was 7 minutes.

  5. Dave says:

    To be clear: I’m not criticizing the President for not moving for 7 minutes, I’m criticizing the me-me-me 17 year old kids who somehow think the President’s primary concern after learning of the attacks was their personal comfort.

  6. James V Feragola says:

    Thank you for the clarification. I see what you are saying.

  7. Neil Hudelson says:

    I’m criticizing the me-me-me 17 year old kids who somehow think the President’s primary concern after learning of the attacks was their personal comfort.

    Except they aren’t me-me-me 17 year olds. They are normal 17 year olds recollecting that when they were 6 and 7 they were glad the commander in chief was comforting. When I was 6 I was really glad that my parents comforted me during the death of a friend. That doesn’t mean I’m a selfish 26 year old who thinks that that death only concerned me.

  8. mantis says:

    This was always a cheap line of attack on President Bush. Absolutely nothing would have been different if he had left the room immediately, except a class full of freaked out kids.