To mark the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, National Geographic will show a week of 9/11-themed programming tin September. That will include George W. Bush: The 9/11 Interview, which took place over two days in the immediate aftermath of the killing of Osama bin Laden. Among other things, Bush recalls his mindset on the morning of September 11, 2001, discusses the criticisms of his seemingly-delayed reaction to the news of the attacks, and talks about the death of bin Laden publicly for the first time. Below, check out a clip from the special:
Bush was visiting a Florida classroom the morning of the attack: “First I thought it was a light aircraft and my reaction was, man either the weather was bad or something extraordinary happened to the pilot. And then I walked into the classroom.” Bush was told soon after about the second plane hitting the second tower, when chief of staff Andy Carr whispered to him that "America is under attack." He explained why he looked so stone-faced, or frozen, and remained in the classroom for nearly seven minutes after he was told, which was caught on camera:
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...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. I had been in enough crises to know that the first thing a leader has to do is to project calm.
New York filmmaker Peter Schnall said that it took four months of back-and-forth before Bush agreed to the interview. Bush did not ask to see questions in advance, nor did he request final approval over the film (which would have been a dealbreaker for Schnall), and the only condition was that the interview would be limited to the days and events concerning 9/11.
Bush also says in the film that his initial personal concerns pertained to the whereabouts of his family, especially his wife, Laura: "One of my concerns, like the concerns of other husbands and wives, was, 'Was my spouse okay? Was Laura okay?' And my second concern was 'Were our girls okay?'… And I finally found her [Laura]. She was in a secure location. And it was awesome to hear her voice. And she had talked to the girls. And they were secure."
Regarding bin Laden's death, he says he feels "grateful" that he is gone, but "I didn’t… feel any great sense of happiness. Or jubilation. I felt a sense of closure. And I felt a sense of gratitude that justice had been done.”