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14 September 2001

White House Report, Sept. 14: NSC's Rice on Terrorist Attacks

(Describes initial reaction of Bush on learning the news) (640)
The September 11 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade
Center have been "a transforming event for all of us, for the country,
and clearly for the President of the United States," White House
National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice says.
Speaking September 13 with White House correspondents, Rice said,
"We've always known that something like this could happen on American
soil. We've all had it as a nightmare, but you couldn't watch those
planes go into the World Trade Towers, you couldn't go out to the
Pentagon like we did yesterday and see the side of the Pentagon
cratered, you couldn't go through the moments when we didn't know how
many planes were still in the air, what else was next on the list, and
not be transformed by it."
Asked by reporters to describe the President's first reaction on
learning of the attacks, she said it was "a defining moment" for him.
His first reaction, she said, was to say 'I'm going to use this
terribly painful moment to try to make the world better the next time
around. That's what America has always done -- whether it was after
Pearl Harbor, where it committed the United States in ways it had
never been committed to the international system.' That was the sense
of what I got from the President," Rice told reporters.
His reaction, she said, was "in many ways, almost immediate. The
interesting thing is that we were all trying to deal with the
immediacy of the situation, we were all trying to deal with the
consequences of the situation, we were all trying to assess what was
"But in his very first statement to his National Security Council he
said: 'this was an attack on freedom and we're going to define it as
such, and we're going to go after it, and we're not going to lose
focus; and we're going to minister to the country and deal with the
horrors that people are experiencing and the consequences; and we're
going to get through our period of mourning, but we're not going to
lose focus and resolve on what happened here and what this means for
the United States of America in its leadership role to mobilize the
world, now, to deal with this scourge. And I think it was much quicker
with him than it probably was with any of the rest of us."
Rice said those first few hours were "pretty remarkable -- coming out
of the Situation Room, we heard that there was a second plane into the
World Trade Towers, and then, as we were coming out, that something
had hit the Pentagon, that something was likely headed for the White
"To get down then to the secure facility and hear the code name for
Air Force One, there's something headed for Air Force One -- I don't
think that you can underestimate, at that moment, that you're sorting
lots of information and you're trying to deal with the consequences,
but you recognize that something's changed forever in the way that the
United States thinks about its security."
The other thing President Bush "has been very focused on," Rice said,
"is that even though we are going to make sure that we do everything
we can in terms of security measures, we're not going to let the
terrorists win by changing our way of life."
The President, she said, "has said that very effectively" to leaders
of Congress, to the families, and to the young rescue workers at the
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site:

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