The 2nd Graders Who Read with President Bush on 9/11 Have Something to Say to His Critics
For many, the death of Osama bin Laden has evoked memories of 9/11, especially memories of where we were and whom we were with when we first learned that the World Trade Center had been hit. You'll recall that President Bush was in a classroom of second graders in Sarasota, Florida reading The Pet Goat when he learned of the attacks on the WTC.
Upon learning of the attacks, the President maintained his composure and calmly waited until the children had finished their story before making his way to the school's library for a speech and presser on the attacks. Though Bush's failure to leap out of his chair and make a dramatic exit at the precise moment he learned of the violence earned him a heap of criticism from the likes of Michael Moore, the children in that second grade classroom who are now juniors in high school laud the former President for his composure and poise on that fateful day.
"I don't remember the story we were reading — was it about pigs?" says Williams, 16. "But I'll always remember watching his face turn red. He got really serious all of a sudden. But I was clueless. I was just 7. I'm just glad he didn't get up and leave, because then I would have been more scared and confused." Chantal Guerrero, 16, agrees. Even today, she's grateful that Bush regained his composure and stayed with the students until The Pet Goat was finished. "I think the President was trying to keep us from finding out," says Guerrero, "so we all wouldn't freak out."
...One thing the students would like to tell Bush's critics — like liberal filmmaker Michael Moore, whose 2004 documentary Fahrenheit 911 disparaged Bush for lingering almost 10 minutes with the students after getting word that two planes had crashed into the World Trade Center — is that they think the President did the right thing. "I think he was trying to keep everybody calm, starting with us," says Guerrero. Dubrocq agrees: "I think he was trying to protect us." Booker Principal Gwendolyn Tose-Rigell, who died in 2007, later insisted, "I don't think anyone could have handled it better. What would it have served if [Bush] had jumped out of his chair and ran out of the room?"
Reading the accounts of the children who shared that historic experience with President Bush, one thing's for certain: these are certainly not the stupid American teens that Rob wrote about in his post yesterday. Of that second grade class, many of the students have gone on to join Junior ROTC or to study in a military academy, and cite their experience on 9/11 as being the most influential moment of their entire lives.