The Reporters and Politicians With President Bush on 9/11 in Sarasota Look Back on That Morning

"I never talked to him about how he felt reading to the kids that day," the president's brother, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, recalls. "I’ll ask him at the 20th anniversary.”

By Allison Forsyth September 9, 2021

President George W. Bush delivers remarks to the nation regarding the terrorist attacks on U.S. soil from Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota.

President George W. Bush delivered remarks to the nation regarding the 9/11 terrorist attacks from Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota.

Linda Carson, Co-Host of ABC7's Suncoast View

Carson was standing five steps from President Bush in the Booker classroom when he learned of the second plane. “His face went still. He stood up, thanked the children and started toward the door. ABC White House correspondent Ann Compton said, ‘Mr. President, do you know a second plane hit the trade center?’ When I heard what was coming through Ann’s telephone, it was disbelief. We followed him to the media center.  Some people, who didn’t know what had happened yet, started to applaud, and then saw his face and stopped. There was a TV in the room, and I saw what had happened. When the president started to speak—I had not been a supporter of his, I didn’t vote for him—he was the perfect leader for that moment. I thought, ‘We are going to be all right.’ I remember putting my arms through the arms of the people on either side—I had no idea who they were, but we felt we were in this together. We went back to the school to do live shots every 30 minutes. My job was to get out the facts, to calm the emotions. I could play a role.”

Retired Banker Tramm Hudson

Hudson was at The Colony dinner with President Bush the night before 9/11 and was supposed to receive a tour of Air Force One the next day. “When I got to Dolphin Aviation, Secret Service pulled me aside and said something happened in New York, so I couldn’t get a tour. I stood on the tarmac with the press, putting pieces of the attack together through their cell phone conversations. I had never seen a plane fly as steep as Air Force One did departing that morning. I closed my bank early and sat in front of the television with my family the rest of the day.”

Former Rep. Dan Miller (R-Sarasota)

Miller was in Booker’s auditorium when “all hell broke loose,” he says. “Everyone’s beepers and Blackberries were going off. It was chaos.” Miller flew back to Washington, D.C., with President Bush that day. “I knew less than most people in the world that day because Air Force One didn’t have TV reception at the time. We had an emergency landing in Louisiana. It was too dangerous to fly into D.C. I remember Bush pointing out the window to fighter planes escorting us, which had never happened in the U.S. before. It made me think of Tom Clancy’s book Debt of Honor, where a pilot crashes into the Capitol. We were living that dystopia in real life.”

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush

Bush arrived in Sarasota Monday night and ate dinner at The Colony with his brother, but flew back to Tallahassee that evening for a cabinet meeting the next morning. “It’s strange to reflect on this joyful dinner among close friends and think about what happened the next day," he recalls. "I had a tiny TV in my office and  saw the plane crashing. We had to go to the Emergency Operations Center the next few days to sort out what risk existed for Florida. The whole time, I was praying for my brother. I didn’t speak to him until Sept. 12. I didn’t want to bother him. I spoke to my parents on the 11th. We were as worried as every family that day. I never talked to him about how he felt reading to the kids that day. I’ll ask him at the 20th anniversary this September.”

Former Florida Sen. John McKay (R-Sarasota)

McKay flew on Air Force One with President Bush and Jeb Bush on Monday night. He enjoyed dinner at The Colony and returned to his office in Tallahassee the next day. “Back at the Capitol, I was concerned for the safety of my employees. The hijackers had multiple targets," he says. "I didn’t think it was out of the realm of possibility that they’d come after Jeb, too. I was staggered by the news, and afraid for what would happen next to our country.”

Sarasota Magazine’s Robert Plunket

Plunket flew with the White House press corps from Jacksonville to Sarasota to cover President Bush’s Booker event. He was in the media center on Sept. 11. “I remember feeling trapped in this elementary school while the world was falling apart somewhere else," he says. "It never occurred to me that we were also part of the story. After the president spoke, things went crazy. I remember politicians and White House people running around wide-eyed and panicky. I was with photographer Rebecca Baxter, and we felt the whole place was about to be locked down. The parking lot was chaos. We finally had to drive across the lawn to get out.”

Show Comments