Recalling two moments of strong leadership from 9/11

Three days after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush improvised a now iconic line. On the day itself, Mayor Giuliani offered a lesson in clear crisis communications.

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I was at work in downtown Washington, D.C., on 9/11. When I heard the reports of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center, I thought it was a freak small plane accident and moved on. When I heard that a second plane hit, a colleague and I rushed downstairs to watch the television at the lobby coffee shop.

About 50 people had gathered around the television when the anchor broke in and said, “We’ve just received a report of a plane crossing the Potomac River, heading toward Washington, D.C.” About half of the people gasped. My knees went weak.

I didn’t fully agree with our nation’s response to the attacks, and I’ve written critical stories about President Bush’s initial response on the morning of 9/11. But this weekend, while things are so emotionally raw in my two hometowns of New York City and Washington, D.C., I’d rather focus on two positive moments from 9/11.

Moment one: President Bush says, ‘I can hear you’

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