9/11: An Address to the Nation

President George W. Bush delivers an address to the nation at 8:30 p.m. on September 11, 2001, regarding the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the hijacked airplane that crashed in rural Pennsylvania. Photo by Paul Morse; courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library)

This post is part of a series on September 11. As the nation’s record keeper, the National Archives holds many documents related to the events of September 11. In this series, our staff share some of their memories of the day and their thoughts on the records that are part of their holdings.

Elizabeth Lanier, Malisa Lewis, and Jill Zawacki have been archivists at the George W. Bush Presidential Library since January 2010. They are currently processing textual records of the Bush administration.

As children, we recall asking family members questions such as “Where were you when John F. Kennedy was assassinated?” or “What was it like to hear about the bombing of Pearl Harbor?” We never anticipated that one day we would be able to answer a similar question: Where were you on September 11, 2001? Several future George W. Bush Presidential Library staff members were actually in New York City on that day, while others were listening to teachers in high school or college classes. Regardless of our location or age, we all felt a strong emotional response to an attack on our country.

On that Tuesday evening, President George W. Bush addressed the nation on the tragedies of that day and attempted to assuage the fears of citizens who had witnessed the unfolding events unfolding, both in person and on television screens across the country.

After several brief statements throughout the day, the world anxiously awaited word directly from the Oval Office. President Bush had a clear vision for his speech, which he describes in his memoir, Decision Points: “Above all I wanted to express comfort and resolve—comfort that we would recover from this blow, and resolve that we would bring the terrorists to justice.” [p. 137]

page 1 of Bush's 9/11 speech page 2 of Bush's 9/11 speech
page 3 of Bush's 9/11 speech
All writing in black Sharpie was done by President Bush; edits in blue pen were done by Counselor Karen Hughes. Click each image to enlarge.

Former Counselor to the President Karen Hughes recalls the following about this speech in her chronicle Ten Minutes from Normal: “It had been chaotic in my office as we put the statement together; the president had called with his thoughts; the speechwriters sent a draft; Condi Rice and her deputy Steve Hadley had policy points they wanted to include; several other members of the communications team offered ideas.” [p. 244]

Working with his senior staff, President George W. Bush reviews the speech that he will deliver to the nation from the Oval Office. Pictured from left are Alberto Gonzales, White House Counsel; Karen Hughes, Counselor; Condoleezza Rice, National Security Adviser; Ari Fleischer, Press Secretary, and Andy Card, Chief of Staff. (Photo by Paul Morse; courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library)

American citizens look to their President for leadership and comfort during times of national distress. Like his predecessors had done, President George W. Bush used his Address to the Nation on September 11, 2001, to reassure the American people that the United States will always strive to move forward.

During the month of September, you can view this document, as well as President Obama’s speech from May 1, 2011, announcing the death of Osama bin Laden, in the East Rotunda Gallery at the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C.

The George W. Bush Presidential Library will be located in Dallas, TX, on the campus of Southern Methodist University. The permanent facility is expected to open in Spring 2013. The library holds over 70 million pages of textual records, 200 million emails, 4 million photographs, 76,000 audio and video records, and 40,000 Presidential gifts.

George W. Bush Presidential Records are not yet available to the public under the requirements of the Presidential Records Act. The records will become available to Freedom of Information Act requests on January 20, 2014. The images contained in this collection were previously released.

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