Counselor to President Bush recalls White House experience on 9/11

Print
Email
|

by BRAD WATSON

WFAA

Posted on September 8, 2011 at 6:22 PM

AUSTIN -- As 9/11 approaches Texans are recalling their memories, both personal and shared, of what they remember that day.That includes former counselor to President George W. Bush, Karen Hughes.

As a witness of what happened at the White House that day, she shared her story with News 8.
In her Austin office, where she now works as a corporation communications executive, Hughes can now calmly recall 9/11.

The memories remain just as clear.

"Just a horrible day for our country," said Hughes. "Sadness, shock, an enormous feeling of responsibility."

Hughes spent much of that day in a White House bunker, not traveling with the President. She stayed behind to celebrate her September 10th wedding anniversary.

With the Pentagon on fire and much of Washington evacuating her trip in felt surreal.

"In some ways driving into downtown Washington was one of the most chilling moments of the day for me because it looked like a foreign capital after a coup," Hughes said. "The streets were empty."

She recalled another scary moment, when the White House switchboard could not reach Air Force One.

"And that was in some ways one of the most chilling moments of the day because we had been told, it later turned out to be inaccurate, but we didn't know that at the time, we had been told there had been a threat using the code name of the plane against the president's airplane."

As a wife and mother she also had a limited call with her family.

"I wanted to tell them I was safe," she said, "And then I realized I really couldn't say that, so I just said I'm at the White House, I love you, I want you to know I'm here."

As President Bush returned to the White House, Hughes and staff scrambled to finish his Oval Office address.

"We had talked about it as he flew back to Washington and he felt very strongly that it was important to reassure the country."

With the day of terror ending, Bush told her she had a new assignment. 

"We're at war," Hughes said. "And you are responsible for communicating this war."

What had been a presidency focused on domestic issues suddenly reset its agenda for the war on terror.

E-mailbwatson@wfaa.com

Print
Email
|