KISD chief communications officer recounts 9/11 experience with the white house

Posted: 6:27 PM, Sep 11, 2018
Updated: 2018-09-12 00:18:31Z
KISD chief communications officer recounts 9/11 experience with the white house

Terry Abbott became the Chief Communications Officer for Killeen ISD in 2017, but not before working for the White House.

"I grew up in a little bitty town in Alabama, population 500 and somehow I got from there to Air Force one with the President of the United States on September the 10, 2001," Abbott said.

Before Abbot became a member of the KISD family, he was the Chief of Staff to the U.S. Department of Education Secretary Rod Paige.

"I got a chance to go with the president and Secretary Paige to Florida, that was a time we were working on getting 'no child left behind,' the president's education program through the Congress," Abbott said.

The trip to Florida is one Abbott said he barely remembers because of what happened next.

"As we got out of the car, I noticed they were hustling the president in pretty quickly and then Sandy said 'Hey Terry, did you hear what that guy said?' and I said 'No.' and he said 'An airplane has crashed into the World Trade Center,'" Abbot said. "His chief of staff Andrew Card, he walked up to the president and whispered in his ear, he said, these are the exact words he said, a second plane is hit the second tower, America is under attack."

Abbott said after that, President George W. Bush continued the visit to Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota as if nothing happened.

Bush's decision to continue reading the students at the school is on that has been criticized by the world, but Abbott said it's something that was done intentionally.

"The terrorist who did this would be watching exactly what happened, they wanted to give you the reaction of the president today, they wanted to see utter chaos and we couldn't give them that," Abbott added.

But then, after the president was briefed further, he gave one of the most memorable messages in history.

"He looked directly into the camera and he said terrorism against this nation will not stand," Abbott said.

President Bush then left in Air Force One, leaving Abbot and Secretary Paige behind to finish the 'No Child Left Behind,' Program.

It wasn't until Sept. 12, 2001, that Abbott and Secretary Paige were picked up and flown into Quantico.

Abbott said they were the only aircraft in the air that day because all other aircraft were ordered down.

Abbott and Secretary Paige were then moved to Washington where he said, for the first and only time in history the airspace around Washington was being guarded by military jets.

While the memory of Sept. 11, 2001, is clear for many, with every year that goes by, we continue to learn more about the attack.

"We were very close to a nuclear war with Russia that day. When the president ordered that we step up in The Defense Readiness Condition (DEFCON) levels and President Putin tried to get in touch with President Bush to ask what our intentions were. They were getting ready to stand up their missiles, we were raising our DEFCON and the two leaders of the biggest countries in the world couldn't talk to each other," Abbott said.

According to Abbott, not only could President Bush not speak to President Putin, but he couldn't even speak to the vice president for a period of time because cell towers were bogged down with so many calls.

It's because of the communication breakdown during the 9/11 attack that President Bush ordered a complete reboot of the Air Force One Communication System so the lack of communication issue never happens again.

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