Bush explains slow reaction to September 11 attacks

Fri Jul 29, 2011 1:11pm EDT
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Former President George W. Bush says his apparent lack of reaction to the first news of the September 11 2001 attacks was a conscious decision to project an aura of calm in a crisis.

In a rare interview with the National Geographic Channel, Bush reflects on what was going through his mind at the most dramatic moment of his presidency when he was informed that a second passenger jet had hit New York's World Trade Center.

Bush was visiting a Florida classroom and the incident, which was caught on TV film, and has often been used by critics to ridicule his apparently blank face.

"My first reaction was anger. Who the hell would do that to America? Then I immediately focused on the children, and the contrast between the attack and the innocence of children," Bush says in an excerpt of the interview shown to television writers on Thursday.

Bush said he could see the news media at the back of the classroom getting the news on their own cellphones "and it was like watching a silent movie."

Bush said he quickly realized that a lot of people beyond the classroom would be watching for his reaction.

"So I made the decision not to jump up immediately and leave the classroom. I didn't want to rattle the kids. I wanted to project a sense of calm," he said of his decision to remain seated and silent.

"I had been in enough crises to know that the first thing a leader has to do is to project calm," he added.   Continued...

<p>A poster promoting the National Geographic Channel documentary marking the tenth anniversary of 9/11 'George W. Bush the 9/11 Interview' is pictured at the 2011 Summer Television Critics Association Cable Press Tour in Beverly Hills, July 28, 2011. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>