Albuquerque Tribune
SEARCH
CONTACT US
HELP
SUBSCRIBE
ALBUQUERQUE
New Mexico, U.S.A.
logobar

TRIB HOME
NEWS
NEWS ARCHIVE
WAR LINKS
WAR NEWS
SPECIAL PHOTOS
SPORTS
SPORTS ARCHIVE
BUSINESS
LA VIDA
OPINIONS
COLUMNISTS
NEIGHBORS
WORLD NEWS
SCIENCE/TECH
HEALTH
5 DAY FORECAST
LIVE WEATHER
WEB CAMS
CLASSIFIEDS
JOB MATCH
MORTGAGES
THE RECIPE BOX
FORUMS
LOTTERY
PERSONALS
SITE TOOLS
TRIB HISTORY
FREE UPDATES
SITE HELP
SEARCH
CONTACT US
PARTNERS
HGTV
FOOD NETWORK
FINE LIVING
DO IT YOURSELF
KRQE NEWS 13
TRIB EXTRAS
LEGISLINKS
LEGISLATURE '03
NM DROUGHT MAP
SNOWPACK
CHILDREN SERIES
REPRINTS
CRIME
SEPT. 11 PHOTOS
SEPT. 11 NEWS
OUTDOORS
RECREATION
SALUD
HEALTH LIBRARY
EDUCATION
MINORITY ISSUES
BALLOON FIESTA
TOURISM
OLYMPICS
WEB HISTORY
E-MAIL SCAMS
URBAN MYTHS
POLLEN
7 DAY FORECAST
NIE
NEWSPAPERS IN EDUCATION
LIFESTYLES
LIVING
HOME
GARDENING
BOOKS
MUSIC
CONSUMERS
FASHION
PEOPLE
RELIGION
FAMILY
JUNG TYPE TEST

The eye of the storm XXX
Eric Draper/White House Photo Office

STAYING CALM: After departing Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, President Bush conferred with Vice President Dick Cheney from Air Force One during a flight back to Andrews Air Force Base on Sept. 11. This is one of America's first images of the president after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Former New Mexican Eric Draper, President Bush's personal photographer, documented a determined commander in chief in the chaotic hours after the terrorism attacks.

By Joline Gutierrez Krueger
Tribune Reporter

Cell phones and pagers were buzzing like mad hornets in the small Sarasota, Fla., classroom crammed with journalists, giddy second-graders, somber Secret Service agents and President Bush, there to sell his education plan and have a photo op with 7-year-olds.

One by one the journalists were learning through their calls and pages the same shattering news that seconds ago had been whispered in the president's ear:

"A second plane has hit the World Trade Center," Andy Card, Bush's chief of staff, had told him. "America is under attack."

Life in America changed that moment on Sept. 11, 2001, and everyone in that tiny classroom knew it except the second-graders of Emma E. Booker Elementary School.

And Eric Draper.

"I'm thinking, still not knowing there was an attack, OK, it's time to cover the event and stay out of the way of the press and just do my thing in the corner of the room," said Draper, a former Rio Rancho photojournalist and Albuquerque Tribune staffer handpicked by Bush to serve as his personal photographer.

Through his lens, Draper, 38, has come to know Bush's every gesture, every expression, every glare and twinkle. In his role as preserver of presidential Kodak moments, he has seen Bush in ways few outside the White House inner circle are allowed.

"I am like that fly on the wall," Draper said.

XXX
Mark Holm/Tribune

Presidential photographer Eric Draper during a visit to an Albuquerque North Valley restaurant last month.

Looking through his lens that moment he noticed a subtle distracted change come over his boss's face. And as talk among reporters grew louder, Draper soon learned why.

"I started overhearing people in the room, and I knew I had to stay glued to the president's expressions," Draper said. "I studied his face to see how he was reacting. I could tell he was thinking about what he had just heard and at the same time he was holding his composure. It was pretty amazing to me how he could not show any sign of panic. He kept doing what needed to be done."

A few minutes later Draper was following Bush and his aides to another classroom where a television played and replayed the horrifying scenes of planes crashing and people running and the World Trade Center towers afire.

It was just the beginning of a long, excruciating, confusing day of decisions and doubt and doing what needed to be done.

Draper was there for it all, his camera clicking, the fly on the wall of Sept. 11.

"I knew I basically had to get everything I could on film," he said in an interview from his home in Washington, D.C. "I knew at that point it was going to be a really important day. I hadn't realized how bad it was going to get."

XXX
Eric Draper/White House Photo Office

SOME COMFORT: President Bush walked down a hallway on Air Force One with his arm around White House staff secretary Harriet Miers on the trip back to the White House on Sept. 11.

Picture this

Sept. 11 began like most days with an early morning 4-mile run (Bush, not Draper, who admits he is not up to the speed of a man nearly 20 years his senior). Then came a shower, an intelligence briefing and off to whatever meet or greet was planned for the president that day.

"Any time he leaves any building or gets in a car or makes any move, there is an entourage that knows and that follows," said Draper, a member of that entourage.

This day it was Florida, Emma E. Booker Elementary and education reform.

Draper was in the motorcade heading for the Sarasota school when Press Secretary Ari Fleischer got a call on his cell phone. It was just before 9 a.m.

"I heard him say `Oh, my God, I don't believe it. A plane just hit the World Trade Center,'" Draper recalled. "We were all saying wow, that's incredible, how terrible."

Draper had made a living shooting incredible, terrible events. After leaving The Tribune in 1993, he joined The Associated Press, traveling around the globe shooting everything from the Oklahoma City bombing to Princess Diana's funeral.

He pictured how the silhouette of a plane - a small one, he thought - would look burning black from the side of a New York skyscraper. He imagined how he might capture that on film, how the scar would flame and smolder and then be over.

"You're only hearing it by phone; so you try to envision it," said Draper, whose soft-spoken nature belies the volume at which his photographs speak.

That quiet tenacity is what likely won him the photography position with Bush.

Other than the president's rare private moments and times when sensitive information is being discussed, Draper is there like the president's shadow.

He was a lot more obvious before Bush became president, when he was an AP photographer covering the then-Texas governor on the presidential campaign trail. At a Christmas party at the Governor's Mansion in Austin, Texas, that year, Draper asked Bush if he could be his personal photographer and left his portfolio.

Draper got the job and headed to Washington, D.C., leaving his wife, Carolene Langie, and his home behind in Rio Rancho.

"We were commuting," laughed Langie, a journalist herself who in their 14 years of marriage has learned as graciously as one can ever learn to tolerate the long stretches without her globe-trotting husband.

Working for the White House, at least, meant no more photo shoots in dangerous places such as the earthquake-shaken Northridge, Calif., or mine-laden Kosovo.

Now her husband wore a suit and tie every day instead of his usual jeans and hiking boots. He went to an office, oversaw a staff of eight photographers and editors and dozens of photo lab workers. He was surrounded by the Secret Service.

"It's a safe bubble for him to be in," Langie said. "Now I knew somebody was always watching his back."

But in the first hours of Sept. 11, just 10 days after she had finally given up the Rio Rancho commute and moved to Washington, Langie said she wasn't sure who was watching her husband, where he was or whether that safe bubble was still intact.

XXX
Eric Draper/White House Photo Office

SEEING FOR HIMSELF: Director of Communications Dan Bartlett pointed to footage of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center as President Bush conferred on the phone in an elementary school room in Sarasota, Fla., on Sept. 11. Bush glanced at the television from time to time but mostly kept busy taking in information by phone.

`Let's do our jobs'

Bush and his aides were hurriedly composing what he would say to the country in a secured classroom as the television flashed the unfolding horror of the day. Bush turned for a moment to glance at the monitor and then went back to work on the speech, a cell phone to his ear.

"It was the first time any of us had seen the video of what was happening at the World Trade Center," Draper said. "The president didn't outwardly react much, but the staff was stunned."

Everyone in the room worked their cell phones, trying to squeeze out information on a situation that defied comprehension.

"It was so surreal," Draper said.

At 9:30 the speech that would have outlined education budgets became the first of three that day to galvanize the nation and prepare it for war.

"Today we had a national tragedy," Bush said. "Two airplanes have crashed into the World Trade Center in an apparent terrorist attack on our country."

In minutes the speech was over, and Bush and his entourage were back in the motorcade heading for Air Force One.

By then the Pentagon was in flames.

After takeoff, Bush gave his staff on board the only semblance of a pep talk they would get for the next tense eight hours as the presidential plane zigzagged across the skies.

"I remember him coming out of his cabin right after we took off and telling us: `This is what they pay us for, boys. Let's do our jobs,'" Draper said.

A controlled tension settled over the front cabin of Air Force One, a massive floating White House with wings. Televisions in various pockets of the plane flickered on and off, picking up coverage of the events below when the satellite-dishless plane flew within range of major metropolitan reception.

"Everyone is watching the monitors trying to get snippets of visual information and the reception keeps going in and out," Draper said. "It was like a bad dream."

XXX
Eric Draper/White House Photo Office

SAFE AT HOME: President Bush talked with Vice President Dick Cheney in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center in Washington D.C. late in the day on Sept. 11. The two were seldom seen together in the days after the terrorist attacks.

Both towers of the World Trade Center had collapsed by then. Bush was on the phone to Vice President Cheney when reports that the White House was the next target crackled in. Another report indicated the State Department had already been bombed.

The State Department report later turned out to be untrue, but no one knew that then, Draper said.

Staffers were also hearing that another plane had just crashed in a Pennsylvania field. That one was confirmed a short time later.

Below them thousands of Americans were dying, and the mood aboard Air Force One remained determined but tense. By 10:30, word had reached the president that even Air Force One was not above the terrorist attacks.

"It got spooky then," Draper said. "The president announced to us that he had heard from the vice president that Air Force One was the next target."

But Draper said he could not perceive the anxiety rising.

"Everyone, including the president, remained very focused," he said. "There was no panic, nothing sad. It was more of an attitude of `Can you believe this?'"

Key senior staff members huddled in various clusters, their ubiquitous phones in hand. He could hear them running scenarios on where or whether Air Force One should land, whether the number of staff aboard should be downsized for their own safety, whether the president should be placed aboard a different plane, whether the president should return to Washington as he wanted but the vice president had cautioned against.

"It was very intense, but there was no arguing, no yelling, no panic," he said. "It was all very businesslike and professional."

Through the worst of it Bush had that same controlled commander in chief aura about him that Draper had come to know. Unlike many political pundits who said Bush grew into his presidency that day, Draper said they just hadn't seen what he had seen all along.

"It's something I learned pretty quickly about him when I joined the staff," Draper said. "He had it already. There's a discipline about how he goes about his day. His is an on-time administration, very focused on the business at hand."

Now en route to Barksdale Air Force Base near Shreveport, La., that business for Bush included making sure the first lady and their two daughters were safe down there somewhere.

But Draper and the others no longer had access to cell phones to call their loved ones. Phones were ordered shut off and their batteries yanked out to prevent the signals from giving away the plane's location.

"The strange part about it was here we are turning off cell phones and taking precautions, and we see ourselves landing at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana on the TV," Draper said. "So much for not being found."

XXX
Eric Draper/White House Photo Office

BUSY AT WORK: President Bush and advisers read a document in the Presidential Energency Operations Center late Sept. 11. First lady Laura Bush looked on.

Hitting home

Langie's phone started ringing that morning in the new apartment she and Draper shared about a mile from the White House.

"I was unpacking boxes and stuff, and family members were calling, telling me to turn on the TV," said Langie, whose voice normally blossoms with laughter. "Like everyone else I was just blown away, seeing those buildings destroyed like that."

It wasn't until she climbed up to the roof of her apartment building and saw the smoke rolling black and ugly from the Pentagon that Langie said she realized whatever had befallen the country was now hitting home, literally.

Sirens howled, and dazed government workers streamed from the evacuated Capitol, well-dressed refugees with briefcases.

"They looked shell-shocked," Langie said. "All transportation was shut down, and they were all walking home. There were no cabs, no Metro, no buses."

And no husband.

"I was running back and forth between the roof and the apartment, answering e-mails from the family asking where's Eric? Where's Eric?" she said. "And I would just say he's with the president."

But Langie had no idea where that might be.

XXX
Eric Draper/White House Photo Office

TERROR BRIEFING: President Bush, White House Chief of Staff Andy Card (left) and U.S. Navy Adm. Richard Mies conducted a video teleconference at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"I tried to reach him with the usual methods, but I couldn't get through," she said. "I was thinking, `He has a job to do and he's doing it.' But for my own comfort it would have been nice to have had some contact."

That day her comfort was the phone, the e-mails and the television. Then she heard Peter Jennings' report that Air Force One might be under attack.

"That frightened me," she said. "I lost it. I started crying. I was nutty, and I couldn't get to him and I was scared."

Air Force One, meanwhile, had landed at Barksdale. It was 11:40 a.m. Three hours later, it would be airborne again, this time headed for Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska.

"I didn't think we were going home that day," Draper said. "I thought we would be flying around all day and night, maybe spend the night at some secure undisclosed location."

Just after 3 p.m., Langie watched CNN live coverage of the president and his entourage being escorted to a cinder-block bunker in Nebraska for a teleconference with members of his national security team.

Among the dark-suited men surrounding the president was one with a camera.

"I was so relieved," Langie said. "I e-mailed everybody: `Did you see that? Everything's fine.'"

Three hours later, Langie's phone rang again, and she heard the calm voice she had missed all day.

"I told her I would be coming home a little late," Draper said.

XXX
Eric Draper/White House Photo Office

TROUBLED TIMES; National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice waited for President Bush to wrap up a telephone call with British Prime Minister Tony Blair early in the morning on Sept. 12.

Toward Sept. 12

Draper and Langie didn't sleep much that night, but then few across the country did.

"We were like everyone else," Langie said. "So tired, so sad, scared of what this all meant, shocked."

Draper can't estimate how many rolls of film he shot that day. Fifty, maybe. Maybe more.

Maybe one day those photographs and the events they crystallized would all make sense. And maybe they would just be the historical reminder of America's darkest and most incomprehensible day.

By sunrise, Draper was gone again, his cameras packed, doing what needed to be done.

Print this


SEND THIS PAGE TO A FRIEND!
Enter an e-mail address:
Enter your name:



� The Albuquerque Tribune.

Users of this site are subject
to our User Agreement. Please read it.


The Tribune Web site is updated by noon and as events warrant daily

NMJobs.Info


a d v e r t i s i n g


a d v e r t i s i n g

Print Edition

Print Edition


A Familiar Face of Terror

The Middle East: At A Glance

Spotlight: Afghanistan