Former White House official talks about 9/11

FRESNO, Calif.

A former White House official, who was with President Bush when he learned about the attacks, recently sat down with Action News.

Terry Abbott's memories of September 11th 2001 are as fresh now as they were nearly 10 years ago. While many watched these terrifying images coming out of New York City and Washington, D.C. Terry was rubbing elbows with news photographers and reporters in the back of a Sarasota, Florida classroom.

Terry was with the president on a tour to promote his education policies. At the time Terry was the chief of staff for the department of education.

On September 11, President Bush read "The Pet Goat" to some second graders. Not long into the book, the president's chief of staff informed him, the nation was under attack.

Abbott said, "We knew, at that moment, this is a very different world we lived in just yesterday. The whole world changed in the blink of an eye."

Terry witnessed this moment first-hand, the moment President Bush would be criticized for and praised for as he guarded his reaction to the terror attacks.

Abbott said, "Chaos just erupted, my blackberry just started exploding with messages from the white house."

As President Bush prepared to address the country that day, Terry had an important job as well. His boss, Rod Paige was the secretary of education.

Under the nation's continuity of government plan, Paige was 11th in the line of succession for the presidency.

Abbott said, "I knew, as all of this was happening, I've got to get him out of here and I've got to protect him, too."

Terry and his boss raced to meet Air Force One, but the president and his security team were already in the air.

The next day, they made it back to DC. Terry still carries his copy of the Washington Post from September 12th.

Abbott said, "It was a surreal time, you know? It's hard for us to explain to our kids now what that time was like for all of us."

Now Terry has a new job and a new mission. He's touring the country as spokesperson for Pearson, a media and education company... that created free, in depth, lesson plans for schools to teach about 9/11.

Abbott said, "This is the time when we have our kids' attention on the subject and we need to teach them about it. 9/11 affected their lives and will affect their lives for the rest of their lives."

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