On Sept. 11, 2001, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer was standing in the back of a Florida classroom as President George W. Bush read aloud to young schoolchildren. A plane, thought to be just a small aircraft, had already hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center, but Bush decided to press on with the reading event. Just minutes after he sat down with the schoolchildren, a second plane struck the World Trade Center. "Don't say anything yet," Fleischer wrote on the back of a legal pad for only Bush to see, out of the eyes of the press. This is how Fleischer begins his Twitter narrative about Sept. 11, 2001. For the last several years, Fleischer has been live-tweeting the day as if it was 2001 all over again — and if Twitter existed back then.
In a pre-social media world, Sept. 11 was chaotic and emotionally taxing, with limited information available and even more limited channels. As black smoke rose over New York City for hours, most Americans were left in the dark about the disaster that had occurred.
Bush received a lot of flack — and still does — for his delayed response to the wide-scale terrorist attack. That's what makes Fleischer's Twitter timeline on this 14th anniversary so intriguing. The former White House press secretary stands by his former boss, of course, but the thought process of Bush and his staffers is fascinating to see play out in real-time.
Fleischer also drops some tidbits, like the one about the Air Force One pilot who later said that there was a sniper on the runway in Florida, which is why he hustled the Boeing 747 out of there.
And these disturbing points, which still haunt Fleischer today:
Apparently, Russian President Putin was our friend, once. Another enlightening bit of information from Fleischer:
Fleischer continues to take us through the flight on Air Force One. Bush famously did not return to Washington, D.C., right away, even though the president informed his staff that he needed to be in the nation's capital.
Fleischer's Sept. 11 tweets are also worth reading just for these endlessly quotable Bushisms.