What a delight it was to hear the Former First Lady and her daughter speak at the opening session of RootsTech this morning!
Life as a family during September 11, 2001
Mrs. Bush talked about the first national book festival at Library of Congress on Saturday, September 8, 2001, and how it was the last weekend when people could participate in a gathering like that without glancing over their shoulders
As she rode in a car to the capital just a few days later on the morning of Tuesday, September 11th to brief the senate on early childhood education, she was told by a secret service agent that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. They continued on to the capital, and as she sat with Senator Ted Kennedy watching the television, he tried to reassure her, but she said “There was no reassuring anybody that day".
She spoke about her family getting escorted into a bunker beneath the White House. “We had each other; we were safe, our daughters were safe, but all we could think about were the thousands of Americans who couldn't say the same about their loved ones. We woke up on September 12 to a different life.”
She fondly talked about falling in love with President Bush and the way he could always made her laugh. In the dark days after 9/11, she stood by him as his wife and watched the pain in his eyes not only as The President of The United States of America mourning for a nation, but as a father and husband grieving with those that lost loved ones.
“I was with my husband on the days in which he had to make the decisions that every president dreads. There were days when there was no laughing and no wisecracks. I saw the tears in his eyes after visiting with the parents and spouses that had lost loved ones that day.”
Looking back on her time in The White House, one memory keeps resurfacing. It’s October 20, 2001, and President Bush is preparing to throw the first pitch at a baseball game. As he walks out to the mound, and with 57,000 people present, her husband stood on the pitcher’s mound, alone in a crowd. The recent events remind her that an attack from any direction can come at any moment.
“All I could do was hold my breath and remind myself that this is the job of the President,” she said. “It's not only the President’s job; it's the job of any American, who has an urge to take a stand and make a difference, and who's willing to step up to his own pitcher's mound.”
She recalls her greatest honor was to watch America face up to fear and stand proud.
Growing up in The White House
Mrs. Bush spoke about how important family was during their Presidency, and how much President George W. Bush looks up to his father, former President George Bush. He recently wrote the book “41: A Portrait Of My Father” about his father’s life and legacy.
Jenna Bush Hager told an endearing memory of “Gampy” (George Bush Sr) and the night before he had a Presidential debate. Her parents, George W and Laura, had plans to go out, so “Gampy” was in charge of babysitting her and her twin sister Barbara. When bedtime came, Barbara couldn’t find her stuffed cat that she needed in order to go to sleep. “Gampy” looked for hours, and even had secret service men out in the garden looking for it with flashlights. When he finally decided he wasn’t going to find it, he went in to break the news to his granddaughters, and found them fast asleep.
Hager cherishes this memory and holds it dear to her heart that her parents and grandparents always put family first.
"Savor these moments when they're little,” Laura Bush said. “Make those times special for yourself even. Time goes so fast."
She also recalls that her parents always took her and Barbara on trips with them.
"Those trips changed our lives and changed our perspective in the world,” Hager said. “It's a privilege and opportunity to help others in need."
She recalls a time when she was greatly influenced by her mother, Laura Bush. She knew how much she loved children, and she took her to visit a children’s shelter. Instead of telling her to volunteer and do work there, she gently showed her the way, and allowed her to choose her own path.
“She gently showed it to me and knew I would love it,” Hager said. “That to me is the best parenting technique. Be gentle and show them the way.”