TODAY   |  September 09, 2011

George W. Bush reflects on 9/11, ‘fog of war’

Former president George W. Bush talks about how the attacks on September 11th shaped the legacy of his presidency.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> back here at ground zero . as america remembers 9/11, president george were bush was commander in chief on that faithful day ten years ago and the terror attacks shaped his presidency. when i sat down with him last november to talk about his time in office he shared his reflections on that day a-day he says redefined his job. talk about the problems becoming your responsibility. it was a tuesday, september 11th , 2001 .

>> yeah. i have a lot of memories that day. it was andy card whispering in my ear.

>> you were in a school in florida.

>> he was. andy said, the second plane hit the world trade center . america is under attack. my first reaction is anger. how dare they do this to america. and then i looked at the kids and their innocence in contrast to the evil of the attackers became apparent to me and i just knew my job was to protect them.

>> you had just been given that news and you sat there and it was seven minutes.

>> that's right. i made the decision not to jump up and create a chaotic scene. then all of a sudden the cell phones are ringing. the noise and --

>> press in the back of the room.

>> right. it clarified to me that people were going to be watching my reaction. the reaction of the leader is essential in the first stage of any crisis.

>> you gave an order at some point during that morning. there was still chaos.

>> yeah.

>> nobody knew if there were other planes. you had to give an order that the u.s. military had the authority to shoot downey plane, whether it was a cessna or a commercial airliner that did not respond to commands to land.

>> right.

>> talk to me about that order.

>> it was very intense because to get at -- it's difficult to getting a rate information. and therefore, the only safe course of action was to say, no airplanes and any airplane that shows up that does not respond to flighter escort would get shot down.

>> can you imagine the pilot in the cockpit of a fighter being told shoot down.

>> that american airliner goes down if they do not do something. i would not imagine that. yet it needed to be done in order to protect the country because we were watching killers use our own assets to destroy american life . and it was a difficult order to give. it was the right order at the time but it was a difficult one to give.

>> you went to new york city and you went to ground zero .

>> i did.

>> and you stood on that rubble and just describe the moment to me.

>> there was not only soot but debris, water, like you were walking into hell. there was a palpable sense of revenge and anger. i'm trying to be the comforter and these guys are looking at me like, are you going to go get these guys or not?

>> george .

>> call meg georing me george . not mr. president, george . i was overwhelmed by the anger and emotion. i got on the rubble and standing next to bob beckwitt saying, listen, we appreciate your service and this, that, and the other -- i can hear you. and it wasn't kind of a soft "we can't hear you," i can hear you. i can hear you. the rest of the world hears you and the people -- and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon. it was a spontaneous moment that