Sarasota, Fla. A young advance worker whisked away the easel holding a chart that was to accompany an education pep talk, a blue curtain parted and President Bush walked briskly toward the presidential podium, set up in an elementary school media center. He turned toward the audience long enough to show a stunned, wide-eyed look.
By the time he reached the podium, he looked stern and businesslike. He folded his hands. "Ladies and gentlemen, this is a difficult moment for America," Bush said, reading from handwritten notes.
"I unfortunately will be going back to Washington after my remarks. Secretary Rod Paige and the lieutenant governor will take the podium and discuss education" he said, referring to the education secretary. "I do want to thank the folks here at Booker Elementary School for their hospitality. Today, we've had a national tragedy," he said.
"Two airplanes have crashed into the World Trade Center in an apparent terrorist attack on our country. I have spoken to the vice president, to the governor of New York, to the director of the FBI, and I've ordered that the full resources of the federal government go to help the victims and their families and to conduct a full-scale investigation to hunt down and to find those folks who committed this act. Terrorism against our nation will not stand." He paused.
"And now, if you'd join me in a moment of silence," he said. He bowed his head for a second or two.
"May God bless the victims, their families and America. Thank you very much," he said. Then he headed for the airport, where Air Force One was scheduled to take him back to Washington.
Bush had begun Tuesday morning about 6:30 a.m., running 4.5 miles during a 42-minute stop at a golf course near the Longboat Key resort where he spent the night. It was dark when he started.
He ran with a reporter, Richard Keil of Bloomberg News, and both were sopping wet after keeping a 7 minute 20 second pace. A Secret Service agent ran with them, and they were trailed by three golf carts.
At 9:04 a.m., before his speech, Bush went into a classroom for a brief reading demonstration. He smiled when he saw the 18 children. At 9:07 p.m., his chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., leaned over and whispered to him. Bush's face suddenly went grim.
At that point, officials apparently thought the crash was an accident. Bush sat with his hands folded and his legs crossed, with a bemused look. The second-graders read so well that Bush said, "Really good readers! Whoo! This must be sixth-graders."
Bush asked his standard question about whether any of the children read more than they watch television, and was pleased to hear that some do. Their reading included the phrase "more to come." Bush asked, "What does that mean? "More to come?"
One of the pupils said, "Something else is going to happen."
Bush said, "That's exactly right."