September 11, 2001 will be forever etched in the hearts and minds of Americans, but for former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, the day after terror and tragedy struck will also remain a most vivid memory.
As one of former President George W. Bush’s right hand aides, Fleischer had one of the most unique perspectives of what transpired in the hours after the 9/11 terror attacks. He’s shared those remembrances every year in a captivating Twitter thread, tweeting out gripping photos of scenes on Air Force One, snippets of Bush’s conversations with his aides, and other surreal behind-the-scenes moments of the day that united Americans in their grief and shock. And later, in their determination.
He’s still surprised how much an impact his tweets have had on his followers, he recently told Fox News.
ARI FLEISCHER GETS CANDID ABOUT GRIPPING 9/11 TWITTER THREAD, TWEET THAT GETS ‘HUGE REACTION’
Fleischer was also asked to paint a picture of what a live Twitter thread of September 12 would look like, which prompted him to recall several eerie scenes and conversations.
“It began with a senior staff meeting, where Andy Card, the chief of staff warned everybody how deadly serious this is,” Fleischer told Fox News. “That CIA had concluded it wasn’t a question of if, it was a question of when a second wave would take place.”
As for the atmosphere at 1600 Penn, he said, it had drastically altered.
“And physically the White House was a different place,” he said. “Instead of places at the entrance where there was one Secret Service agent, there were now two. They had doubled. There were agents at various portals. Secret Service agents who normally had their handguns in holsters at the belt where you couldn’t see them, now carried long guns out and visible inside the West Wing.”
“That was just a shock to me,” he continued. “I saw that on September 12.”
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Later that day, Fleischer said he accompanied President Bush to the Walter Reed Medical Center to visit the wounded from the attack on the Pentagon. One hundred-eighty four people died when terrorists hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 and flew into the U.S. defense headquarters.
“When we walked in, the head physician said to President Bush, ‘I wish we had more patients to show you,’” Fleischer said. “Because most people died, there were very few wounded in the attack on the Pentagon.”
“The president’s trip to the Pentagon that day, the moving nature of going to the Pentagon and one scene that still sticks out in my mind, is the president went there and a giant American flag was unfurled at the Pentagon,” he added. “We’re seeing the mortuary workers in their white suits covered all white, still dealing with finding bodies. This is how fresh and vivid everything was still, one day after September 11.”
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Saturday marks 20 years since the 9/11 terror attacks, which claimed 2,996 lives.