Photo: George Burns/Harpo Studios
After addressing the nation from that Sarasota elementary school, President Bush says he was heading back to Air Force One to fly to Washington, D.C., when he learned a third plane had crashed into the Pentagon.
"My construct was this," President Bush says. "The first one was likely an accident, the second one was an attack, and the third one was a declaration of war. [I thought], 'I'm the commander in chief, and I want to be in Washington, D.C.'"
President Bush was advised by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to stay away from the White House because it wasn't safe. Despite these warnings, President Bush says he knew he had to fly home.
"There was a lot of uncertainty in Washington still about whether or not there were other planes getting ready to attack," he says. "But I was not going to give a speech to the nation from a bunker in Omaha, Nebraska. I would not give the enemy the satisfaction of seeing the president of the United States holed up underground, so [I said], 'I'm coming home.'"
That evening, as he flew over the Pentagon, President Bush says he believed he was looking at an act of war. "I was thinking, 'What do we have to do to protect the United States of America?' I was thinking war," he says. "I thought 'war' for seven and a half years as president, sadly."