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tv   Oral Histories Gary Walters  CSPAN  September 12, 2021 5:29am-6:35am EDT

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5:30 am >> gary walters former chief usher at the white house. what was your job? >> i was initially a uniform division officer of the secret service for the first five years as at the white house but then i was an assistant usher from 1976 until 1986. and when the former chief usher retired i was appointed as the chief usher by president and mrs. reagan. >> host: 's responsibilities for the white house and for the first families, what were they? which of the responsibilities of the chief usher were three fold. first of all, to take care of the first family at the white house for the second was to keep the activities of the presidency, those events that take place in and on the grounds. and thirdly, it was to maintain the house for the american people. we are open for tours monday through saturday. : : :
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>> to try to take some of the reading burdens when the first family wanted their meals and what they wanted them and the house was taking care of that was the greatest challenge to meet the needs of the family and do it unobtrusively. >> we started in the white house did you think he was at 37 years there quick.
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>> no i didn't. actually i was going to school at night when he first started at the white house. than the opportunity became available one of the people in the office retired. i applied for the position and rex chose me and i never regretted one minute of the days i spent there. >> take us back to the morning of september 11, 2001 walk us through your morning. >> normally i got to work between six and 615 in the morning. on that day my primary mission was to take care of the activities that would occur that evening which was the congressional picnic the president and mrs. bush were posting the entire congress, house and senate, cabinets, the congressional liaison offices, in some supreme court justices would all be on the white house grounds that evening at 7:00 p.m.
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for the traditional congressional picnic, entertainment, caterer that had come from texas. chuckwagon, picnic tables, stage on the south ground. we were preparing between 151800 people in the meals served that evening. that was my major that coming to work that morning. soon as i arrived at work, at about 6:15 a.m. come i met with some of the staff and laid out the day and how we would get ready for the evening as well as the other activities. as it turned out the former president george and barbara bush, spent the previous night at the white house. so we would see them off in the morning and i had been requested by some of the staff if they could say goodbye to them so we were preparing a little going away get together with the bushes and then
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mrs. bush was going up on capitol hill to testify with senator kennedy's committee on early childhood development. they also had the president's brother there overnight. so we were taking care of his activities during the day because he was going out for business. so it was a relatively active morning. and as he wanted to say hello to the people and came down and went over to the west wing to a number of people and it was around 730 or 8:00 o'clock
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or 845 the former first lady came down and met with some of the staff that she had been fond of what she was at the white house and we had a hell but then departed with the secret service on the way to the airport returning to their homes in houston. host: do you remember his demeanor but he talked about with the former president or and mrs. butch on —- mrs. bush quick. >> and just was comfortable talking about anything and everything i asked him his home and how things were panning out. and really like the idea of being in his own home that he enjoyed the family life to
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travel. had said general conversation about their life in houston. >> . >> it's a clear summer day. >> it was crystal clear not a cloud in the sky. humidity was down that was one of the worries i did not have to worry about something that usually happens in the summer is thunderstorms. anytime between june and the end of september but today was perfectly beautiful and crystal-clear. host: at 830 in the morning we meet with staff and we began planning the final elements. what was happening around that
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time? >> we would have a delivery of certain items that we rented for the evening. they would be coming at a certain hour when the additional butlers would be coming to serve, when the caterers would arrive with final preparation. we had done some preliminary preparations. and of course they also have their own proprietary ways to do things. we were making arrangements to make sure they had the proper people. they brought a number of volunteers to help serve we went to make sure everything was correct and in the general placement of things on the tables, decorations, centerpieck about the entertainment that would be there that evening. generally, it was a decision-making process to go through the day we did pretty
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much every day with the staff. nothing out of the ordinary just thought through and planning making sure the proper people are in the proper place. >> this is inside the white house and on the south lawn. >> absolutely a lot of that preservice preparation was done in the white house. and we were waiting until later in the morning around 11 or 12:00 o'clock before we started to get to the items and also the volunteers to come in and help because dinner service wouldn't start until 11:00 p.m. so we're just laying the roadmap. host: president bush 41 and first lady depart the eye on —- the white house and then what happened. >> we continued carrying on with activities getting prepared for the day. it was a little before 9:00 a.m. that mrs. bush came
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down program at her at the elevator. she was preparing to go to capitol hill. as we were walking out i remember distinctly talking about christmas decorations. my thought was a had a couple of questions i wanted to ask, and a couple of decisions she needed to make. on the way out to the south portico i asked her she had a boxing glove because she had a boxing committee she said no this would be a good way to mail the case of early childhood education. then we went to the south portico think she was due at capitol hill at 9:00 a.m. and we walked through as the car was waiting for her answer secret service agent was assisting her getting into the car he said mrs. bush there
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has been a terrible accident in new york. airplane has flown into one of the world trade center's. mrs. bush asked that she the kept advised of what is going on. my thought immediately was what a terrible accident here is a perfectly clear day all the way up and down the east coast and what had gone wrong with the air traffic control system. no thought of anything else at that point progressive secret service agent clears the door it starts to get in the car he said go inside and look on television they are covering it extensively there's a lot of questions being asked. so i stood at the south portico and waited for the motorcade to go out of the south grounds which takes a few minutes because i've seen the motorcade turn around and
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come back because something was forgotten or staff member was late so i stay until the car leaves the grounds. after it did, i went back inside to the diplomatic reception room and right across is the secret service command post. as a started to go into that room it was full of people watching television, obviously. i went to my office above that on the first floor in the ushers office and on the way i ran into a chef and butler we discussed a couple of things for preparation on the south ground. i talked to one of my maintenance men who was doing some activities in the house. it took me eight or ten minutes to get back up to the ushers office. and then a few more people than would have been.
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as i walked into the room i see a plane flying into one of the world trade center's and i said to one of my assistants. how did they get this on television already? he turned to me with the's eyes wide with a man who is composed and he said that is the second plane. and it's like somebody hit me in the stomach. i could not believe. i said the second plane? he said yes a second plane just at the second world trade center building. i was breathless for a moment or two. because immediately there is no question in my mind the united states was under attack. this was not an accident. this was an attack and what was going forward from there.
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i watch the television for a couple of minutes stand by the commentary and what was going on somehow they got a replay of even the first plane pretty quickly flying into the first building. we stood there talking amongst ourselves trying to look and see what kind of plane it was even trying to identify the plane somebody said they thought it was southwest somebody said it was american so there was that nervous banter. finally i cleared my head and i realized there would not be a picnic on the south line. and the president would probably come back to the white house. i picked up the phone and called the social secretary, kathy fenton, is that obviously there will not be a picnic. it will be suspended are
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totally canceled. i am going to take action to clear things now why don't you start doing whatever you need to do including getting hold of the people who are supposed to come in a couple of hours and to stay put we don't need extra people here now. she said i think i agree with you that the deputy chief of staff is in new york. he was doing a mission there to look at the presidents visit later in the month for the when. she said i need to get a hold of joe to make sure we have this nail down that obviously it will not happen. i knew i needed to get the picnic tables out because it only takes the president and i would have to get back from florida i didn't have much time with 160 picnic tables on
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the south ground as well as all of the other things and they were covering the area where the helicopter normally lands. i started making calls to the national park service grounds crew and my people to get people outside to start moving the picnic tables. we would just pile them on the side we didn't have much time for them on the side of the roadway and if you look at the films you can see when the president does eventually land at the white house later that evening you will see picnic tables as he walks to the oval office picnic tables are mining the whole south ground. it took a little while for me to get the staff in the proper position that the shift needed on —- and didn't need to go any farther in the governors trying to get a hold of the people to make deliveries for
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the things we had rented and tell them to stop. .com. and then i went outside to supervise moving the picnic tables so they were in the area of the lease obtrusive to make sure we can get the fire trucks if we had to deal with that. as i exited through the south portico a police officer came running to my left from the east from the first lady's garden yelling everybody was to get out there's another plane coming. at about that same time, he said i believe there has been a plane crash at the pentagon.
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almost simultaneously when he said that i heard a loud muffled side and then i looked over the tree canopy to my right in the direction of the pentagon and i could see a big plume of black smoke. you can see the pentagon from the white house but you are just below the tree line. and now this year that was in everybody's mind was obviously this is not your but also washington one —- not just new york and the realization had everybody another call came there was another plane in the air. at that point the secret service officer started to yell get out, everybody get out of the white house. get off the grounds.
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from the southeast be off to my left the executive chef one of my executive ushers was at the gate clearing rented equipment. i didn't know that had already arrived and they were at the gate and walter came running up from the gate. he's rather tall and long leg it in one —- so the top speed that he could run and no shoes followed by one of the other butlers assisting. they were on their way as the secret service had told them to get out of the white house. they were pushing people to the north which immediately
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didn't make any sense to me. the most exposed side is the south side so i was screaming at my people who were with me and on the south grounds not to go north, go south and go to the southwest and southeast gates. if anything will happen if the plane does crash the jet fuel and debris will continue north it will not go south. i was trying to get people to leave out the south. at that point it was a case of mere panic by a lot of people. fear was in my mind obviously and there are additional planes in the air.
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i had a mission to clear the south grounds no doubt in my mind the president was coming back to the white house at some point. i got an indication initially that he might be coming back at 12:30 p.m. but once the plane crashed into the pentagon the word was out they did know when the president would come back to the white house. was able to maintain a staff of about four people with me went to the grassy knoll on the southeast side one police officer stayed with us and kept us advise of the traffic coming across the traffic on the police radio at one point
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i found myself standing in one of my maintenance man said why you standing like that? i said if i stood any closer my knees would be banging so loud to sell make a bass drum. and now a second incident occurred to put fear in everybody's hearts which was a report that came across the police scanner following to loud bangs that a car bomb was set off at the state department. within a few seconds after that one of the maintenance men who was a ground superintendent looked up in the air over the pentagon, high in the air and saw a jet plane. we instantly knew what had
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occurred. obviously it was the sound barrier being broken by the jet as it was overhead. it continued to circle. i don't know why i remember the so distinctly, but it was circling in a counterclockwise direction around the edge of washington in the restricted area. i assume it got word from air traffic control it took off headed west. later i understood it was going to the plane headed for pennsylvania. it was a military plane. right before that showed up, i have never seen this before but i know distinctly what i remember. after the plane crashed into the pentagon, and within ten minutes, and military aircraft
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that look to me like the c-130, i had seen quite a few circle the pentagon on —- the pentagon info off to the south. i never heard that reported it can be my imagination but i don't think so i do think it was there from somewhere. and not too long after the plane crashed into the pentagon. but anyway but we continued to stand i didn't want anyone doing any activity we had continuous reports that there were additional planes in the air and i didn't want to take the chance. with the banter that goes among people in that situation if we saw the plane going on —- coming in would be go to the comfort station? there was a trailer for guest with outdoor events or down because there is so much heat because there was a plane
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crash. those things that went to people's mind at that point with the nervous energy taking over. and then a third thing that occurred, we heard a low jet engine like a plane that had just taken off come from our left which was down pennsylvania avenue across the capital. we all stood there just aghast as we watch this large plane, as 747 were very close to it, and it flew right over the capital and came right straight toward the white house and then made a soft turn. luckily for my own fear the plane was in the nose up position not nosedown. it dawned on me it was probably a command and control
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aircraft from andrews air force base who use the court or that is under military control at that time because the plane circling around to gain altitude and then it took off and went to the northwest and curled around but it turned in the final turn what look like the north side of the treasury department and went on. host: this is all in one and a half hour, to our time period. >> yes. host: you talk about fear about what else is going through gary walters mind quick. >> my overriding concern was clearing the grounds. i knew the president well enough to know he was coming back to the white house. as a symbol to the power of
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the presidency i knew at some point that day the president was coming back in my responsibility is to get the picnic tables out of the way. i just need that was my responsibility but the four men initially that were with me supplemented by daniel shanks went back to the house to get the tools out of the kitchen. we just had a mission to allow the president to return to the white house. host: at what point during that money did you begin to breathe easier quick.
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>> not that morning because there was a series of things that occurred with the plane and the pentagon, the reported car bombing at the state department, a plane coming at us and that continuing air traffic reports of additional planes still in the air. we continue to work probably until about 1:00 o'clock p.m. initially i would not let the ground superintendent who had a tractor with the lift on the back, that's how we usually move the picnic tables to added time. we were moving them by hand because if something happened i didn't want the sound of the motor to block the fact i wanted people to get out of harm's way. so initially we were moving
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them by hand. after an hour and a half of that they way a couple hundred pounds apiece realized we might want to take that suggestion and things had started to calm down it was around 11:30 a.m. are about 12:00 o'clock p.m. we had gotten word the president had taken to louisiana and then to omaha nebraska. that is the word we got so he was not going to return imminently to the white house so we had some time to deal with. but at some point i was able to use the cell phone that we all had to start make some contact with people i'm sure you are well aware the cell phone in washington the service was overwhelmed and nobody to get through.
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first got a hold of my wife and then my parents in florida because they knew they would be concerned. my wife told me my daughter who was in school in boston had heard on campus data plane had flown into the white house and she was frantic i told my wife to get in touch with her but later i learned the two planes that left from boston crashed into the world trade center. the tables were moved but we stayed adjacent on the south line. eventually asked one of the butlers who was with me if he could go inside to get some cold cuts to put some sandwiches together for the few people on the staff that were still there, the five or six people i had with me and then i learned later they were down in the basement of the white house which is part of
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the bomb shelter they had gone down there. communication started to become a little bit of a relief and we could make some phone calls. they were intermittent and disrupted. but there were some. it was around 1:00 o'clock i fell to come on —- comfortable we accomplished our mission on the south portico and had to move the chuckwagon and the plywood on the ground and the serving tends everything had to be moved and stack to waste when the helicopter came in it could land without endangering anybody. and started to make some calls on the telephone i received a call from mrs. put on —- mrs. bush staff and her
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assistant sarah asking about the whereabouts of their personal made and the dogs and the cat progress at the last of my had seen them they were with one of the groundskeepers who took care of the dogs and the cats. that i thought had been in the basement of the white house and said i will come back with the secret service escort and get close for mrs. bush we don't know what will happen from here and we went to pick up the dog and the cat. at that point we made preparations to get the dog and the cat together. the litter box, leashes for the dog. sarah came to pick up some clothes for mrs. bush and she took the party and they went off to an undisclosed location.
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it was getting later in the day we were feeling a bit more comfortable no more attacks simply on —- by then we heard about the plane that heard about the plane that crashed in philadelphia and air traffic control system that put all the planes down including the former president who left the white house that morning period airports all around the country and the imminent danger had subsided to some degree. and i knew that there were people in the situation room in the west will bring one —- west wing, park police and the white house staff that stay behind and evacuated by this time were all ravenous they have been there since early in the morning with no food preparation so i called the chef and asked if he would be
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able to serve hamburgers and hotdogs we had prepared that evening i shouldn't say prepared ready to be cut for the children. he said it would be easier to do the tenderloins which were prepped. i set up think anybody would have a problem getting it tenderloin instead if we could prepare some meals. i expected that to be 150 people including all police and security. i called over to the command center talking to chuck easley, and i asked chuck if they would be willing or able to accept a meal if we can prepare it. about that time he said he would call me back in a few minutes. the chef called me and said not only could he do the tenderloins but green beans
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and hominy the ranch people had prepped that would be the easiest way for him to do it if he had some help. the chef, the maître d' had talked his way back into the security perimeter because he had to get to his keys and could not leave because they were in his jacket pocket. he talked his way back in. the chef, butler, maître d', daniel, my assistant, and then one of the plumbers who was in the basement and one other person. there were six people. and we decided the chef that he could have food together by about 5:00 o'clock. so chuck called me back and said they would be very grateful to all the people involved if they could come through. i had the maître d' check to see if we had enough paper plates and forks and knives to
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handle the people i thought would be coming. and then sitting in trying to put my thoughts on paper what had occurred during the day. because at that point it was a most historic day from a very negative aspect. i wanted to put down my thoughts on paper of what had occurred on my day. the service was going on and i found out later those six men served 650 meals between 5:00 p.m. and 8:00 o'clock p.m. in a very small kitchen you have seen the size of it. we got word at some point that the president would probably come back to the white house. in fact i got a call from the military office and they asked if we would please go out and
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clear the grounds of the picnic tables. i was proud to say that is done the president can return to the south grounds of the white house. also received word he was doing and oval office address. i had a couple of people maintenance people i could send over to set up for the address and got the press people into the security provider to start arranging for the address that evening. the president's brother at one point, i could get him back into the white house. he asked me if he should go to the one of the local hotels overnight? i said no. there's no reason why you can't stay right here. you stayed here last night you can stay tonight am sure your brother won't mind. so neil made plans we sat there and talked and watch television for probably half an hour or 45 minutes and he
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decided to make personal phone calls. mrs. bush came back to the white house around 630 and the president landed on the grounds a little later and was getting to be desk at that time and dark. host: go back to the moment you were writing a diary or a timeline. and in working for the president and the first family, what were you thinking? >> this was a historic occasion. negative, certainly. and then to write down what occurred at the white house on that day. so much gets lost if people don't write stuff down. it wasn't my normal activity to keep a journal or anything.
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and then going to as many emotions as people could possibly go through with thoughts of my family obviously. and then miraculously fought their way through terrible conditions as far as i'm concerned they saved my life because i was convinced still to this day that the white house but i have a different thought process. that somebody would try to do something the white house is the image they would like to take down. i feel a great deal of remorse for the people but they also save my life.
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>> and then to be on the south grounds if that would have crashed into the white house. but i just felt and then to compose my thoughts both for history and to call me down. at that point i was pretty hyper evenhough at that point it was a good nine hours into the first crash that had occurred in new york. and to use that as a means to recalculate my day to start to think about the coming days and what would happen in the coming days both to the white house the united states government. >> anything the road that stands out quick. >> i really can't because i
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tried to keep it factual. of course going to my mind was the fact we were at war. somebody had attacked the united states and there was a state afford to be declared one way or the other and who were the people that did it and what were their motives? of course by that time there was plenty of speculation who was responsible and what the actions of the government would be. that change for him. >> user president bush to part the white house on september 10h did a different president bush return september 11? >> yes. >> and made the transition to a wartime president. the president was one of the
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most practical people i ever had the opportunity to serve at the white house. and nicknames for everybody and knew a lot of the staff so they knew the people in the family members. when he returned he had a stiff job. he was very focused, tremendously focused. to that point, laura bush had been but that is why she was down capitol hill to talk about early childhood education. and his demeanor change. he was still the same person personally and have a
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purposeful look in my eyes when he returned and continued. >> so the sights and sounds around the white house? what you heard or did not hear into the afternoon through the early evening? what do you remember? >> i remember that chaos and never heard anybody yell get out of the white house. so i did not see until later that evening the photographs that were taken of everybody evacuating the white house on the north side i saw the few people with me on the south grounds and told to get out i called as soon as i got the first word and then to call immediately and say get word
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to everybody to get out and get out now. that was the first noise the cacophony and then there was other silence pretty much evacuated the white house the only noises that came across was the clicking in the background sound of the radio of the police officer standing with us. it was a crystal-clear beautiful day not a bird singing. not a sound. that was certainly after the jet plane left the area. then of course the activity level of us to get things done. doing that in relative silence but there is noise associated
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with moving things. but then of what we were all involved in and how things would move from there. then it fell back into a routine and knowing the helicopter was coming. those were some of the sounds but certainly that period of time of half hour or 45 minutes because the traffic couldn't move in washington nobody can use their cell phones because of the communication system was overloaded it was astonishing to be there and then have that reaction at that time. host: pick up when the marine one lands on the south lawn what was going on inside the white house as the president was preparing to address the
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nation. >> i had sent everybody home at that point except the three people i had. obviously after the president made his remarks we would have to tear down the oval office and get ready for activities the next morning. everybody went home. i was they are talking with the chef asking if he could be prepared for the president and first lady and amulet he would prepare them a meal because i'm sure they had not eaten and would like to have a nice meal for the evening. the president got off the helicopter and walk straight to the oval office. met with his staff. gave the speech he came back over. i was there and greeted him. he put his hand on my shoulder. we did exchange many words. we went down to the basement because they jackie and
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mrs. bush to the basement and to the bombshells or. and i went back to the office and a little while later they came back over and went upstairs to have the evening meal. and then the secret service gathered together they were going to go down again to the shelter. i said mr. president you know your brother is staying here tonight he looked on the looked at and said they want us to stay in the bombshells or and he is in the lincoln bedroom? i don't think so if it's good enough for him then it is good enough for us and so then they decided they would sleep on the second floor that evening. so they did not go back down to the shelter. they stayed there.
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sometime around 8:00 p.m. or 9:00 p.m., i got a call from the west wing and they said how do they make preparations for ms. rice to accept the presidents invitation to stay at the white house for the night? i said you have just done that i will take care of it. obviously she was going to come over at some point in take a room on the third floor. around 9:30 p.m. are in that vicinity, secret service came running into the office and said where's the president and first lady? i said as far as i know they have retired upstairs. we have word another plane is coming toward washington. and we need to evacuate. i said let's go. we got on the elevator going
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up to the second floor and at that point the agent assigned had already retrieved the president and first lady and they were in their night close and brought them toward the elevator. i stepped back out and yelled for neil to hurry up. he heard the commotion. i gathered him with me on the elevator with the president and mrs. bush and the secret service agents and traveled to the basement. that basement court or was full of men with guns and masks and all cans of things i had never seen downstairs in the basement. and the pace they hurried the president and the first lady and neil and myself through was astonishing. as he passed by the engineer's
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office, two of my assistance who were setting up the oval office and returned and in the basement because they stayed overnight because they had duties at night, they were standing there did not know what to do with wide eyes. i reached out and grabbed both of them by the shoulder and said you are coming with me. they said we can't they were struggling with security priorities there were certain places they went to didn't go and i said you are coming with me. i gathered them up and just followed along in the entourage and ended up in the bombshells or and the president went into the briefing room and i stopped myself and the other two men there is not room for everybody. we did not know what was going on i just knew at that point we were in the safest place we could be next to the president. i figured i didn't know how long we would be there. about 15 minutes later, i
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guess this was around 11:00 p.m. now that i think about it, 15 minutes later the secret service said it was a false alarm it may have been a flock of birds. we retraced our steps and went back to our previous positions. host: during that moment what was the room like? what do you remember what people were saying or not saying or what you felt? >> once again i was on the outside of the briefing room. the shelter, i cannot be too specific. it has a space for the president and first lady they need to stay overnight there is extra close and the bed and then a separate room that is a briefing room was televisions and monitors where he can receive discussions. then the hallway that connects us together when i was in the hallway with the two gentlemen
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and period of secret service agents and the counter attack team. a lot of people were standing around with gas mask and various armaments and it was pretty crowded. but i did not feel frightened at that point. i felt if the president of the united states come i cannot be any more safe position right now then with the president. c we just wait it out and see what happens luckily it only lasted 15 minutes. host: what was his demeanor? >> it was hard to say ba the time i saw him he had mrs. bush's army didn't have her contacts in and had trouble seeing and he was attending to her. they were in front of us going down the corridor.
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but there was no panic or rush. secret service were trying to get them to move as rapidly as fast as a secret service agent would move. that's never easy to do so it's hard to give an idea what it is like going in but coming out the president past by me in fact his hand on my shoulder and said it's been quite a day gary. yes sir. then he saw the gentleman next to me he saw the maintenance staff and said to nobody in particular that guy setting up the oval office seems to be everywhere. i said he is one of the maintenance men that is here overnight to take care of things. he said good man and down the hall he went. he was lucid and went back upstairs and retired for the
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night as far as i know. i went back to the office and awaited doctor rice. she came over a little after midnight and i showed her to her room on the third floor which i had prepared back down to the ashes office not knowing what would occur and i was there for another hour. about 1:30 a.m. we have a small room in the basement —- in the basement we call the ushers lounges somebody needs to stay overnight they can use a very small room. i went down there and fell asleep at 2:00 a.m. and woke up at 5:00 a.m. and proceeded to plan for the next day. host: as you lay on your hello did you reflector were you exhausted. >> at that point i was exhausted. i had spent my time doing the
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notes and i thought about everything that went on during the course of the day that i had written down as vivid as it wasn't my memory in that time. i wanted to keep it as vivid on paper as i could. is not the same as when we write stuff down as her memory that i had spent considerable hours listening and watching television in the ushers office and writing down my memories of what had gone on that day. i picked up the times the plane crashed from the news media in the coverage that night. that everything else i filled in pretty well. i had thought about the day and what had occurred. and i felt good about what we had accomplished. once again come in my mind it
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was allowing the president to return to the white house with the least disruption to him. mission accomplished. host: you wake up the morning of september 12, wednesday morning. what we thinking? >> what will this day bring? is it over? more to come? i'm sure the same as the president of the united states. what are we going to do? obviously some of the things i had to do was to make preparations to get the picnic tables away from the white house, talk to the ranch people because i'm sure they were completely shaken and we had to make arrangements for them in their hotel to get back to texas. what we do with all the rental equipment seeing how the staff was and try to talk to people. in the intervening weeks we
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had some counselors that came in to talk to people. both as a group to start and then the doctors office of the white house was absolutely marvelous. the chief position brought all resident staff together the day after and had a brief conversation with people about what they had accomplished. what might be a problem in the future in the coming weeks. a chaplain was made available to anyone he wanted a chaplain. he and i had a conversation before that meeting, and maybe people decided went to work at the white house anymore and there were a number of administration staff who did make that decision. it was just too close and the fear was and they left their position.
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i always felt the white house was a safe environment. the president was there. all the precautions that could be taken are taken. i have never felt that way. i felt is one of the safest places in the world to be. host: did you ever connect with your daughter quick. >> i did. thank you for asking. she was frantic by the time i got in touch with her her mother could not reach her. and i finally did get in touch with her. the reports that were coming out after the initial that was all over was that of planning on —- a plane had crashed into the white house somebody confuse that with the pentagon some people that may not be upon that washington buildings but we cried on the phone. we made the connection. as it turned out one of the hotels that we had stayed in
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visiting my daughter, there was quite a connection. and then she was planning on coming home the following weekend. 's we had quite a reunion that weekend it was emotional. she was apoplectic about the fact a plane crashed into the white house and not only i but a lot of people she knew may have died. and that was hard for her to take at that point. she had been away from home, at school. it was her first year away. we had made that connection actually with the bush daughters they graduated and thinking about what the president had gone through trying to connect with his daughters to let them know that they were safe. so there is a parallel.
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host: was the congressional picnic ever rescheduled quick. >> it was that quite a bit later and not as large. the congressional picnic has a small window it can fit usually after the summer recess. it is september or early october timeframe. when you miss that and you have to do other things i think the president and mrs. bush what other things occur we did not have a large picnic that year. host: when did you leave? >> 2007. host: reflecting your 37 years at the white house. >> obviously that was the most horrific that occurred because of the loss of life.
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obviously a tremendous care when president reagan was shot. those were the two most difficult days it turns out i was not at the white house i was at home. it was my day off. but learning the president of the united states had been shot and maybe near death. that was a difficult day.
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i will certainly watch as i have been captivated by what's come out in the intervening years. it is almost like i am mesmerized by watching some of that. it's hard to take my eyes off of it. it is so intrusive into what has become america in the last years. so, i plan on making a trip to shanksville. probably not on 911. either right before or right after.
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i have a great place in my heart for those people, that miraculously the heroes that took that play down and save god knows how many lives. >> finally in a quiet moment with your daughter and your wife, what do you tell them about the part you played on 911? >> just, i was glad we were able to accomplish what we need to college for the presidency. i was a small staff, the resident staff is a tightknit
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group of people. those who were chased out of the white house and forced to evacuate by the secret service spent the day trying to get back in. because they knew they could help in some way. i think there is a sense of responsibility to the presidency that is inherent to all the people who work in the executive residence. >> host: knew personally served how many presidents over how many years? >> as i said i started there in 1970 in the nixon administration served seven presidents all the way through george w. bush. sue and kerr walters former chief usher thank you for your time. >> 20 years ago september 11, 2001, two large commercial airliners flew into the world trade buildings in new york city. 200763 people lost their lives. a few minutes later, american airlines flight 77 crashed into the pentagon killing a total of 189 people. a fourth plane, united 93 crashed into a field near shanks of pennsylvania at
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three minutes past 10:00 a.m. on that morning. forty-four perished. these events, as everyone knows, or a great shock to our nation and the world. as a small way to commemorate this moment in u.s. history, here are some of the callers to the c-span network the morning after beginning at 6:00 a.m. >> the entire united states to shut down. you are talking people around the country and around the world who are shaken to their roots by this. >> a look on september 11 attacks on this note a book notes plus. listen at or wherever you get your podcast. follow american history tv on twitter, facebook and youtube for schedule updates. to learn about what happened this day in history watch video and learn more about the people and events that shape the american story. find us at c-span


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