WASHINGTON–The morning the World Trade Center towers and Pentagon were hit by hijacked jets, Mitch Daniels was inside the White House, working for the Bush administration as the director for the Office of Management and Budget. Daniels, who would later become Indiana’s governor and Purdue University’s president, said he remembers the day vividly.
Daniels’ interview is part of the WIBC News Special “9/11: The Hoosier Call to Courage’, which airs Thursday, Sept. 9, at 7 p.m. You can read Part II of this series tomorrow.
“My top deputy at the time had a long history of defense and we both looked at each other and said, ‘that’s not likely an accident’,” said Daniels, as he remembered seeing the explosion and fire from the first plane on a TV screen inside the White House.
“Then, of course, the second explosion and we knew.”
He said that at the time there was no early warning system at the White House.
“The warning system was somebody running through the hall saying, get out! Run, don’t walk.”
Daniels’ job was to oversee the federal budget. Once the attacks were over, he said he had set up a makeshift office in the Roosevelt Room, and began speaking with other cabinet-level people about what the administration would need to react and respond.
“OMB got some significant assignments, of course first of all to organize all the emergency funding for the military action which cleaned the Taliban out of Afghanistan, for the rebuilding of New York City, the compensation of the victims.”
Daniels said he also had to help Congress figure out how to get airlines flying again.
“The indemnification of the airlines was one of the most complicated things. The airlines couldn’t fly because no one would insure them. Congress had to quickly act to create backstop insurance so that planes could fly at all.”
Daniels said he remembers that time as being one of unprecedented cooperation between Republicans and Democrats.
“It was an amazing time of bipartisan agreement.”