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Springfield native told president of terrorist attacks

The Associated Press
11/26/01 12:54 AM

SPRINGFIELD, Ohio (AP) -- Ohio native Deborah Loewer was the first person to inform President Bush that terrorism had struck New York City the morning of Sept 11.

Loewer, 47, is the director of the White House Situation Room, the White House's crisis-management center.

In her hometown of Springfield for Thanksgiving, Loewer told about 50 people gathered in the basement of St. Raphael Church that prayer got her through Sept. 11.

"It's the prayer and my belief in my faith that keeps me going," said Loewer, who spent 26 years in the Navy.

Normally, National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice would have informed President Bush of the attacks. But it was Loewer who had traveled with the president on Sept. 11 to Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Fla.

Shortly before 9 a.m., Loewer got a call telling her that "an aircraft had impacted the World Trade Center."

Loewer said that when she arrived at the school, she ran hard and fast to the president.

"It's a very good thing the Secret Service know who I am," Loewer said.

Loewer told the president and his chief of staff, Andrew Card, that an aircraft had hit the World Trade Center.

"This is all we know," she told them.

Like most Americans, Loewer was watching television when the second plane struck the second tower.

"I tell you, I was so stunned, as I'm sure many of you were," Loewer recalled. "Well, it took me about 30 seconds to realize that this was terrorism."

She relayed that thought to Card, who then whispered to the president, "Capt. Loewer says it's terrorism."

Air Force One returned to Andrews Air Force Base at about 6:30 p.m. that day, Loewer recalled.

"That's when my parents finally found out I was OK, when they saw me get off the plane," she said.

Loewer helped prepare the president for his national address that evening then headed to her apartment, which is about a mile from the Pentagon. That's when the day's horror became personal.

Her apartment building was filled with smoke from a terrorist attack against the Pentagon.

Loewer said Americans should never forget Sept. 11, but also should not let fear stand in their way.

"Live your lives, love your families, believe in your government, believe in your families," Loewer said.

"These little ones," said Loewer, holding her nephew and niece, Nathan and Natalie Loewer, "they're the reason we will not fail."

Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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