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Notes reveal September 11 drama

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Sent to cover the collapse of the World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001, News Corp Australia photographer Nathan Edwards? chance discovery of a family photograph at Ground Zero sparked a 15-year search. Determined to find the family in the photograph, Edwards documented the emotional journey on film and eventually tracked the survivors down, thousands of miles from New York. In the accompanying story by journalist Sarah Blake ? released a the video by News Corp Australia on August 21 ? Edwards said: ?Just to find that picture in the rubble when everything else was ground to dust; I guess it felt like a bit of a sign.? ?From the first moment I found it, I wanted to know who the people were, and I really wanted them to be alive. ?As time went on it played on my mind so much.? The story and the video can be found here. Credit: News Corp Australia

Members of the NYPD Emerald Society Pipes and Drums band march during a procession in Lower Manhattan to mark the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and the police officers who were killed during and after the event on September 9, 2016 in New York City. Picture: AFP

PRESIDENT George W. Bush reacted immediately after the attacks on 9/11 with a mix of swagger, grim determination and worries about his family — including scottish terrier Barney, according to a behind-the-scenes account of the fateful day.

Aboard Air Force One, Bush and his top aides watched coverage of the tragedy unfolding at the World Trade Center when a hair-removal commercial flashed on the screen at 10:37 a.m. — less than two hours after the first hijacked plane slammed into the north tower.

Bush pressed intelligence officials for information in an attempt to reassure Americans, but inaccurate reports swirled during the first few hours, Yahoo News reported, citing handwritten notes by press secretary Ari Fleischer.

Among the reports were a credible threat to Air Force One, a car bomb at the State Department, an airliner crashing near Camp David and a “high-speed object” headed toward the president’s Texas ranch.

To mark the 15th anniversary of the attacks, Fleischer provided his six pages of scribbled notes from air force One to Yahoo News and Reuters — whose reporters were with Bush in Sarasota, Fla., on Sept. 11, 2001.

On what started as a slow news day, White House chief of staff Andy Card was famously seen whispering word of the attack into Bush’s ear in an elementary school classroom.

The 9/11 Commission’s investigators reviewed the verbatim account as they compiled their report on the catastrophic attacks.

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President George W. Bush speaks to Vice President Cheney by phone aboard air force One Sept 11 2001. Picture: AP Pic The White House, Eric Draper

President George W. Bush speaks to Vice President Cheney by phone aboard air force One Sept 11 2001. Picture: AP Pic The White House, Eric DraperSource:Supplied

Fleischer told Yahoo that two sections are redacted — at 10:37 a.m. and 10:41 a.m. — when he wrote down the location of secure sites where Bush’s daughters, Barbara and Jenna, were taken.

The chronology starts when top political adviser Karl Rove tells the president about the first crash. The entry is labelled 8:45 a.m., a minute before the actual time of the first attack, and then skips to 9:45 a.m., with Bush aboard Air Force One.

“Sounds like we have a minor war going on here. I heard about the Pentagon,” Bush tells Vice President Dick Cheney.

“We’re at war,” Bush tells congressional leaders by phone a few moments later.

At 10:20 a.m., an entry notes that Bush “authorised shoot down if reason” — a reference to the president deciding that, if a hijacked plane was perilously on course to a potential target, fighter jets could open fire.

The false threat to Air Force One — “Angel is next” — then comes in from the White House at 10:32 a.m.

The World Trade Centre, which become Ground Zero. Picture: Nathan Edwards

The World Trade Centre, which become Ground Zero. Picture: Nathan EdwardsSource:News Limited

The 10:37 a.m. entry is also when Bush asks Card about Barney.

“He’s nipping at the heels of Osama bin Laden right now,” Card replies.

Five minutes later, the hair-removal commercial appears and Fleischer writes that Bush’s daughters are safe: “girls removed 2 safe house.”

Officials then receive word that a plane “has crashed in the vicinity of Camp David,” but Rove quickly corrects that to “50 [miles] outside of Pittsburgh.”

At 10:41 a.m., Bush is told his daughters were moved to a more secure location.

“How did they take it?” he asks. “They wanted 2 stay in their apartments,” an aide responds.

A closer look at ground zero after the September 11 terror attacks. Picture: Nathan Edwards

A closer look at ground zero after the September 11 terror attacks. Picture: Nathan EdwardsSource:News Corp Australia

At 10:55am., Rove says that reports of a car bomb at the State Department were wrong.

At 11 a.m., Bush makes the decision to take US forces to the increased DEFCON 3 state of readiness.

At 12:25 p.m., speaking to Cheney from Barksdale air force Base in Louisiana, Bush says: “I think it’s important 4 ppl 2 see the gov is functioning because TV shows our nation has been blasted and bombed. Gov is not chaotic. It’s functioning smoothly. We’re going 2 get the bastards.” And, later, the president declares, “It’s the new war. It’s the faceless coward that [attacks].”

One of the towers before it began collapsing in New York. Picture: Nathan Edwards

One of the towers before it began collapsing in New York. Picture: Nathan EdwardsSource:News Corp Australia

At 12:40 p.m. the president says, “I can’t wait to find out who did it. It’s going to take a while + we’re not going 2 have a little slap on the wrist crap.”

Bush talks with Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer at 12:55 p.m. “We’ll come together. God Bless.”

He then speaks with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, saying it will soon be up to the Pentagon “to respond.”

Another inaccurate report comes in at 1:05 p.m. — “high-speed object heading 4 POTUS ranch” in Crawford, Texas.

“I want 2 go back home ASAP,” Bush says at 1:25 p.m. “I don’t want whoever this is holding me outside of Washington.”

Members of the NYPD Emerald Society Pipes and Drums band march during a procession in Lower Manhattan to mark the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and the police officers who were killed during and after the event on September 9, 2016 in New York City. Picture: AFP

Members of the NYPD Emerald Society Pipes and Drums band march during a procession in Lower Manhattan to mark the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and the police officers who were killed during and after the event on September 9, 2016 in New York City. Picture: AFPSource:AFP

At 1:35 p.m., he says “this administration will spend whatever is necessary 2 find, hunt down, and destroy whoever did this.”

Bush speaks to New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Gov. George Pataki by phone at 2:25 p.m., promising to do “anything we can do to help you.” He also warns about “some possibility of a second wave” of attacks.

At 2:58 p.m., he tells an aide “we need 2 get back to Wash. We don’t need some tinhorn terrorist to scare us off. The Am ppl want 2 know where their dang P is.”

At 4:26 p.m., Bush tells his personal military aide that he’s going back to Washington.

At 4:39 p.m., after a stop at Offutt air force Base in Nebraska, Bush speaks to first lady Laura Bush: “I’m coming home. See you at the White House. Love you … go on home.”

And, he adds, “If I’m in the WH and there’s a plane coming my way, all I can say is I hope I read my bible that day.”

The images of 9/11 stay with all of us, but for many of the families of those trapped inside the World Trade Centre, the most powerful legacy of that fateful day is the voices calling from inside the towers.