On TODAY with Hoday & Jenna Friday, Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager shared their memories of where they were on 9/11 on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the tragedy.
Jenna, who was a student at the University of Texas of Austin at the time, recalled her experience of the day as the daughter of President George W. Bush.
“I was in college, and … my dad was president so I had Secret Service,” she told Hoda. “Up until then, we’d kind of made a deal with our parents that the Secret Service would stay back, so we could live and be in college and we wouldn’t see them very often.
“I looked out my window that morning, I was getting ready for school, and there were a lot of Secret Service sitting in the courtyard of my apartment building in plastic chairs, I think they just had found out ... And I knew something happened," she added.
She said she was taken to a secure location and was not able to immediately communicate with her family. Jenna also described the experience of her sister, Barbara, who was a student at the time at Yale University in Connecticut.
“My sister, who was going to Yale, was with a lot of the Secret Service,” Jenna said. “The Secret Service field office was in one of the towers, so she was with these men and women whose families were trying to get them, and they were mourning together because they were worried about colleagues.”
Meanwhile, Hoda was in New York City at the time of the attacks.
“I was actually working here, and I was going to the dentist,” she said. “I remember because I was in the car, and the radio was on, and they said something had happened. And I was going down Broadway, which is that long stretch you can see all the way down, and there was smoke, so I went back to work. And I went into work, and they were scrambling to figure out what was going on.”
She went on to describe a memory that has stayed with her through the years.
“I have one enduring image, and it was one of the makeup artists, who I didn’t know very well, was searching for a loved one. And she kept trying to hit redial, and she was freaking out … I was sitting there waiting to get ready to go on air, and I saw her pick up the phone, and she turned her back, and I saw her shoulders heaving, and I looked over and I thought, ‘Oh my God, she lost him.’ That’s what I thought. And she turned around and she goes, ‘That was him!’”
“There was something about that small image in that moment, and I thought, how many people on that day were going to get a call one way or the other?” she continued. “It was either going to be the worst possible day or the biggest relief probably you’ve ever felt.”
Jenna also reflected on what she learned while interviewing kids who lost parents in the 9/11 attacks.
“What they say is that the beauty of it was September 12,” she said. “If you talk to a lot of members of that community of people that lost parents or lost loved ones — they say what they remember is the feeling of community, of their small towns coming together. Anybody who could give anything, gave. That unity is such a beautiful reminder of the best of us.”
The 20th anniversary on Saturday will be a day of remembrance around the country. At the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, family members will read aloud the names of the people who died in the attacks. There will be six moments of silence throughout the ceremony, marking when each tower was struck and fell, as well the times of the attack on the Pentagon and the crash of Flight 93 in Pennsylvania.