Teacher and student in classroom with President Bush on 9/11 share their stories

Sandra Kay Daniels and Dinasty Brown remembered how "the energy shifted" when George W. Bush was informed of the 9/11 attacks while in their classroom.
/ Source: TODAY
By Scott Stump

A second-grade class at a Florida elementary school was having a moment they would never forget with President George W. Bush on Sept. 11, 2001, when an aide briskly entered the room and whispered an urgent message in the president's ear.

Bush was informed there had been a terrorist attack on New York City's World Trade Center, news he addressed to the country during an impromptu press conference at Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota less than a half hour later.

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Sandra Kay Daniels was the teacher in the class that day, and Dinasty Brown was one of her 16 students. They shared their recollections of that scene on the 3rd hour of TODAY Friday, the 19th anniversary of the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 Americans.

Sandra Kay Daniels was the teacher in the classroom at Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, in the moment that former President George W. Bush was told about the 9/11 attacks. TODAY

"I knew something was wrong because that was not supposed to happen," Daniels said. "The mood went from we're having a great time, he's emotionally involved with the classroom, to him leaving us, spiritually, mentally, and physically.

"He left the room, and I knew I had to continue teaching because I had my 16 students in front of me, I had a classroom full of cameras, and the president was there, but he left me and I didn't know why."

Brown, 26, was just 7 years old at the time, but she could sense the mood had changed.

"We knew something was wrong, and as a kid you're very curious, so I keep looking up, I'm peeking, because his face is completely different now," Brown said. "So the energy definitely shifted, but we didn't know exactly what was going on."

Brown recalled seeing Daniels in tears in front of the class once Bush had announced the news of the attacks.

"I remember she was sitting behind her desk, eyes bloodshot and crying, and seeing that was like, it was weird," Brown said. "It's kind of like seeing your parents cry for the first time. You never see them weak, so very emotional."

Brown is now a successful entrepreneur, and Daniels teaches grades sixth, seventh and eighth at Booker Middle School in Sarasota. They are featured in a new documentary called "9/11 Kids" that follows the lives of six of the 16 students who were in the classroom that day.

"I am in constant contact with them all the time and even if time and years have separated (us), or we haven't seen each other for a moment, the moment we do connect, it was like we never lost a beat, there was no time difference in us," Daniels said about her former students.

It had been a joyous day at the school before Bush was given the stunning news. He had joined in their reading class to promote his education initiative, and there was a buzz all day leading up to it.

"I never forget it," Brown said. "I'm honestly always thinking back to that time, back to that day, and feeling this importance that I was a part of history."

A new scholarship fund has been set up in the school district in conjunction with the new documentary in honor of a person who helped make that historic day happen. The scholarship to help students in the school district to further their education is in the name of the late Gwendolyn Tose-Rigell, the former principal of Booker Elementary, who died in 2007.

"She is the reason President Bush came to our school," Daniels said. "She brought the White House to us."