Sept. 11 drama on Air Force One unfolds in Bush aide's handwritten notes

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...

WASHINGTON, Sept 9 (Reuters) - The notes are handwritten on a legal pad and provide a verbatim account of the shock, pain and grim determination aboard Air Force One on Sept. 11, 2001.

SEE ALSO: One person may hold key to finding JonBenet's killer

They were scribbled by Ari Fleischer, press secretary for President George W. Bush, and he is releasing them to mark the 15th anniversary on Sunday of the worst attack on American soil since Japanese forces bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941.

There are six pages in all, the only original verbatim text of what Bush said on Air Force One as he and his senior aides absorbed the news.

RELATED: 15 most iconic images from the 9/11 attacks aftermath:

17 PHOTOS
15 most iconic images from September 11, 2001 and aftermath
See Gallery
15 most iconic images from September 11, 2001 and aftermath
Content in this photo gallery may be difficult for some to see -- viewer discretion is advised. 

This 11 September, 2001 file photo shows US President George W. Bush interrupted by his Chief of Staff Andrew Card(L) shortly after news of the New York City airplane crashes was available in Sarasota, Florida.

(Photo by PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

In this Sept. 11, 2001 file photo, American Airlines Flight 175 closes in on World Trade Center Tower 2 in New York, just before impact.

(AP Photo/Carmen Taylor, File)

The second tower of the World Trade Center explodes into flames after being hit by a airplane, New York September 11, 2001 with the Brooklyn bridge in the foreground. Both towers of the complex collapsed after being hit by hijacked planes.

(REUTERS/Sara K. Schwittek)

In this Sept. 11, 2001 file photo, the north tower of New York's World Trade Center shows the impact left by a hijacked Boeing 767, American Airlines Flight 11. The Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in New York City and Washington killed almost 3,000 people and lead to a war in Afghanistan.

(AP Photo/Amy Sancetta/FILE)

This 11 September 2001 file photo shows Marcy Borders covered in dust as she takes refuge in an office building after one of the World Trade Center towers collapsed in New York. Borders was caught outside on the street as the cloud of smoke and dust enveloped the area.

(Photo credit STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

A true-color image taken by the Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) aboard the Landsat 7 satellite on September 12, 2001 shows New York City and the smoldering World Trade Center following the September 11, 2001 attacks in this handout photo courtesy of NASA. The image was captured at roughly 11:30 a.m. Eastern Daylight Savings Time.

(REUTERS/NASA/Handout)

A person falls headfirst from the north tower of New York's World Trade Center Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001.

(AP Photo/Richard Drew)

The south tower of the World Trade Center, left, begins to collapse after a terrorist attack on the landmark buildings in New York, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001.

(AP Photo/Gulnara Samoilova)

People run from the collapse of one of the twin towers of New York's World Trade Center in this Sept. 11, 2001, file photo.

(AP Photo/FILE/Suzanne Plunkett)

The remains of the World Trade Center stands amid the debris following the terrorist attack on the building in New York, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001.

(AP Photo/Alexandre Fuchs)

Rescue workers carry fatally injured New York City Fire Depatment Chaplain, Father Mychal Judge, from one of the World Trade Center towers in New York City, early September 11, 2001. Both towers were hit by planes crashing into the buildings and collapsed a short time later.

(REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)

The damaged area of the Pentagon building, where a hijacked commercial jetliner slammed into it September 11, 2001, is seen in this file photo with the U.S. Capitol Building in the background, at sunrise on September 16, 2001.

(REUTERS/Larry Downing)

Firefighters raise a U.S. flag at the site of the World Trade Center after two hijacked commercial airliners were flown into the buildings September 11, 2001 in New York.

(Photo by 2001 The Record (Bergen Co. NJ)/Getty Images)

A New York City fireman calls for more rescue workers to make their way into the rubble of the World Trade Center September 15, 2001.

(REUTERS/Handout/U.S. Navy Photo by Journalist 1st Class Preston Keres)

Members of the New York Fire and Police Departments salute as a truck carrying the last steel column of the World Trade Center moves up West Street from inside of the World Trade Center site May 30, 2002 as the recovery effort at Ground Zero officially ends in New York.

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

"We're at war," Bush told Vice President Dick Cheney. Hanging up and turning to his aides, he added: "When we find out who did this, they're not going to like me as president. Somebody's going to pay."

Fleischer adopted the role of presidential note taker as Air Force One lifted off from Florida after the twin towers in New York and the Pentagon were attacked by hijacked passenger jets.

"I always took notes. It's how you do your job," Fleischer told Reuters. "But on Sept. 11 it was instantly clear how much more important it was to have a record of what the president did and said. I basically glued myself to his side almost the entire day and remained in his cabin on Air Force One to listen and take notes."

Much of the material has been part of the public record. Fleischer has used them for annual tweets about Sept. 11 and in speeches and made them available to the commission that investigated the 9/11 attacks. But he has not previously released them in full to the public.

SEE ALSO: Federal government makes big 9/11 move

The story that unfolds in Fleischer's penmanship begins with the raw emotions Bush and his aides experienced, the president already itching to retaliate.

"I can't wait to find out who did it," Bush said. "It's going to take a while and we're not going to have a little slap on the wrist crap."

There is a dramatic period in which Bush tries to overcome opposition from the Secret Service to letting him return to Washington. The plane first took him to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, then Offutt air base in Nebraska. He got back to Washington that night.

"I want to get home as soon as possible," Bush said. "I don't want whoever this is holding me outside Washington."

An aide responded: "Our people are saying it's too unsteady still."

RELATED: Rebuilding the World Trade Center 15 years after 9/11:

17 PHOTOS
Rebuilding the World Trade Center: 15 years after 9/11
See Gallery
Rebuilding the World Trade Center: 15 years after 9/11

A group of firefighters walk amid rubble near the base of the destroyed south tower of the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001. In the worst terror attack on the U.S. mainland in modern history, two hijacked planes slammed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York and a third plane hit the Pentagon, across the Potomac river from Washington. REUTERS/Peter Morgan

Family members of the victims of the attacks on the World Trade Center gather around the Circle of Honor at the base of the site of the attacks on the one year anniversary of the attacks, in New York, Wednesday, September 11, 2002. (AP Photo/Mike Segar,pool)
Family members of the victims of the the attacks on the World Trade Center enter Ground Zero to pay their respects, September 11, 2003 in New York. U.S. President George W. Bush on Thursday commemorated the attacks with subdued events of remembrance, as his government warned of possible bigger terror attacks. REUTERS/Stephen Chernin/POOL SC/GN
People gather at the World Trade center site in New York City, September 11, 2004 on the third anniversary of the attacks on the Twin Towers. This year, it is the parents and grandparents of World Trade Center victims who will read aloud the names of those lost on Sept. 11, 2001.
Family members make their way down a ramp to the site of the former World Trade Center during ceremonies marking the fourth anniversary of the attack of the twin towers in New York September 11, 2005. Families of victims of the collapse of the World Trade Center were allowed down to two pools of water placed on the ground where the buildings once stood. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn GMH/VP
People gather around a reflecting pool at the bottom of the Ground Zero site of the World Trade Center on the fifth year anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York, September 11, 2006. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES)
Family members of victims pay their respects at the site of the former twin World Trade Center towers in New York September 11, 2007 on the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. The first steel beams of the new Freedom Tower being constructed on the site are seen in the foreground. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn (UNITED STATES)
FILE - In this Sept. 11, 2008, file photo, cranes at left are set up above the foundation for One World Trade Center in New York on the seventh anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Friday, Sept. 11, 2015 will be the 14th anniversary of the attacks. Nearly a decade and a half after hijacked planes hit the World Trade Centerâs twin towers, the Pentagon and a field near Shanksville, Pa., the anniversary is still marked with observances around the country. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
Family members of victims pay their respects at the site of the former twin towers on the eighth anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, in New York, September 11, 2009. Families of the victims are gathering at the annual ceremony to remember the attacks that killed more than 2,700 people with the destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn (UNITED STATES DISASTER ANNIVERSARY)
Police and firefighters surround the reflecting pool at the World Trade Center site during 9/11 remembrance ceremonies in New York, September 11, 2010. REUTERS/Don Emmert/Pool 
The North Memorial Pool, with 1 World Trade Center under construction at rear, is pictured during ceremonies marking the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, in New York September 11, 2011. REUTERS/Robert Deutsch/Pool (UNITED STATES - Tags: ANNIVERSARY DISASTER)
Friends and relatives of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center attend a ceremony marking the 11th anniversary of the attacks at the National September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center site in New York, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
World Trade Center 1 looms over the north reflecting pool at the 9/11 Memorial during ceremonies marking the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York September 11, 2013. REUTERS/Allan Tannenbaum/Pool (UNITED STATES - Tags: DISASTER ANNIVERSARY)
An American flag marks the name of a loved one at the North Pool Memorial site in front of 1 World Trade Center during memorial observances on the 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014. Family and friends of those who died read the names of the nearly 3,000 people killed in New York, at the Pentagon and near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. (AP Photo/The Daily News, Robert Sabo, Pool)
The One World Trade Center building on the early morning of the 14th Anniversary of the terrorist attacks, on September 11, 2015 in New York.. AFP PHOTO/KENA BETANCUR / AFP / KENA BETANCUR (Photo credit should read KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)
The World Trade Center. New York.
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

Bush said that was the message he was hearing from Cheney as well.

Bush chief of staff Andy Card said, "The right thing is to let the dust settle."

Fleischer's notes include an eerie reference to a communication heard on the plane from the ground that "Angel is next." Because Air Force One's codename at the time was "angel," there was worry onboard that the plane was a target.

He said an armed guard was stationed outside the door leading to the Air Force One cockpit, just in case someone was a threat on the plane itself.

A month later, Bush and his team were told the reference to "angel" was a miscommunication from the ground. One offshoot of the 9/11 attacks was a major renovation of Air Force One's communications abilities.

The president, only in office for eight months, had another priority in mind as well: making sure his family was safe. Bush's wife, Laura, and their two daughters were whisked to secure locations.

"Barney?" Bush said, inquiring about his beloved Scottish terrier.

"He's nipping at the heels of Osama bin Laden now," said Card.

Read Full Story

People are Reading