Return to Transcripts main page

Breaking News

America Under Attack: Bush Holds Press Briefing

Aired September 11, 2001 - 14:20   ET



JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: And, Erin, just picking up on your conversation with Miles O'Brien a moment ago, and perhaps you all refer to this, and I apologize if I repeat the Associated Press reporting on a passenger on United flight 93. Now this is the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania. About 20 minutes before the plane crashed, a passenger with a cell phone locked in a bathroom actually called an emergency dispatcher and shouted into the cell phone. We are being hijacked. We're being hijacked.

They apparently stayed on the phone with this passenger up until the moment when the passenger heard some sort of a loud noise and then they lost contact. That's just one more piece of the stories, the many, many, many stories that we are pulling together as we watch these developments in Pennsylvania, here in Washington, and, of course, in New York City.

And you just heard Aaron talking about incomplete information about casualties, what hospitals are dealing with. now, these numbers I'm going to read you right now are only incomplete. We are just beginning to get this kind of information. We are told that Washington area hospitals right now, 53 injured, at least three more casualties on the way. Although we have to believe that with the commercial jetliner that crashed at the Pentagon, or just in front of the Pentagon, and that was Boeing 757, and these are the pictures of the Pentagon, just outside the Pentagon, 58 passenger onboard, four crew members and two pilots, it is impossible to believe that they did not all perish. And we don't know about others who work at the Pentagon who were in the part of that building that was most effected when that commercial plane went down.

We've are -- we've been talking with a number of people involved in rescue, and right now we want to go to the president's statement. This took place just about an hour and 15 minutes ago. The president was on his way back to Washington from Florida. His plane touched down at an air force base in Louisiana, Barksdale Air Force Base near Shreveport. We can now report that information because he's since left Barksdale.

But here is what President George W. Bush had to say in this statement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward. And freedom will be defended.

I want to reassure the American people that the full resources of the federal government are working to assist local authorities to save lives and to help the victims of these attacks. Make no mistake, the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts.

I've been in regular contact with the vice president, secretary of defense, the national security team, and my cabinet. We have taken all appropriate security precautions to protect the American people. Our military at home and around the world is on high-alert status. And we have taken the necessary security precautions to continue the functions of your government.

We have been in touch with the leaders of Congress and with world leaders to assure them that we will do whatever is necessary to protect America and Americans.

I ask the American people to join me in saying a thanks for all the folks who have been fighting hard to rescue our fellow citizens and to join me in saying a prayer for the victims and their families.

The resolve of our great nation is being tested, but make no mistake, we will show the world that we will pass this test.

God bless.


WOODRUFF: President Bush made that statement just about an hour and 20 minutes ago at Barksdale Air Force Base near Shreveport, Louisiana. That was an unplanned stop that the president made at that place in order to talk with reporters, meet with others. Since then Air Force One has taken off, President Bush being flown to an undisclosed location. We're told also that Secretary of State Colin Powell, who had been on his back to the United States from Peru, being taken to an undisclosed location.

Outside the Pentagon, CNN's military affairs correspondent Jamie McIntyre.

And, Jamie, you got very close to where that plane went down.


A short -- a while ago I walked right up next to the building, firefighters were still trying to put the blaze. The fire, by the way, is still burning in some parts of the Pentagon. And I took a look at the huge gaping hole that's in the side of the Pentagon in an area of the Pentagon that has been recently renovated, part of a multibillion dollar renovation program here at the Pentagon. I could see parts of the airplane that crashed into the building, very small pieces of the plane on the heliport outside the building. The biggest piece I saw was about three feet long, it was silver and had been painted green and red, but I could not see any identifying markings on the plane. I also saw a large piece of shattered glass. It appeared to be a cockpit windshield or other window from the plane.

When this plane hit the Pentagon this morning, according to the Pentagon spokesman, Craig Quigley, the defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, incredibly is described as having run out of his office and down to actually help some of the victims onto stretchers until he was ushered into the National Military Command Center, the secure Nerve Center or War Room deep inside the Pentagon, where he remains at this time.

Pentagon officials say he will stay for the time being. That is a place where all of U.S. intelligence comes in and he has complete command with his commanders around the world.

At the same time, the Pentagon has dispatched several warships out of port Norfolk, including the U.S. -- the carriers, USS George Washington and USS Kennedy. The sensible reason for that, the movement of those ships and their escort ships, is to move them from more vulnerable positions. But the Navy says they'll also head some of the aircraft carriers up toward New York with the idea that they may be able to render some kind of assistance there, given the magnitude of the tragedy there.

Back here, the fight goes on to put out the fire inside the Pentagon. The heat from that blaze was described as absolutely intense, and the number of casualties here has still not been released. Dozens of people were taken away in ambulances, and the Pentagon is still not releasing any figures on deaths. But clearly, people who had offices in that, what is now a huge gaping hole in the side of the Pentagon, clearly, there was some people killed in this tragedy -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Jamie, Aaron was talking earlier -- or one of our correspondence was talking earlier -- I think -- actually, it was Bob Franken -- with an eyewitness who said it appeared that that Boeing 757, the American jet, American Airline jet, landed short of the Pentagon.

Can you give us any better idea of how much of the plane actually impacted the building?

MCINTYRE: You know, it might have appeared that way, but from my close-up inspection, there's no evidence of a plane having crashed anywhere near the Pentagon. The only site is the actual site of the building that's crashed in, and as I said, the only pieces left that you can see are small enough that you can pick up in your hand. There are no large tail sections, wing sections, fuselage, nothing like that anywhere around, which would indicate that the entire plane crashed into the side of the Pentagon and then caused the side to collapse.

Now, even though if you look at the pictures of the Pentagon you see that the floors have all collapsed; that didn't happen immediately. It wasn't until almost about 45 minutes later that the structure was weakened enough that all of the floors collapsed. WOODRUFF: And Jamie, this happened -- we are now able to reconstruct -- about 9:38 this morning. At that time, Jamie, what are we talking about, dozens, hundreds of people at work in the building?

MCINTYRE: There are 24 thousand people who work in this building and most of them are at work at that hour of the morning. They were all evacuated from the build.

In my office, which is sort of halfway between where this took place and other side of the building, which is where the defense secretary's office is, eventually, even the corridor I was in began to fill up with smoke just as I began to leave the building.

But there are -- this was the prime time for an attack. However, it's not the prime location. Every time we've thought about what might happen if the Pentagon were subject of attack we assumed that the attack would come on the other side, the river entrance, where the brass are.

But this attack came on the side facing Arlington Cemetery.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jamie McIntyre, military affairs correspondence.

And just to underline what we're seeing at the Pentagon, nothing on the scale of the devastation in New York City, where you have two entire towers of the World Trade Center collapsing, but still, this is -- has to be the, supposedly, the most secure of secure buildings in Washington D.C., and an airplane, commercial airplane, flew right into it.