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Space Shuttle Columbia

Bush's day: Dealing with tragedy

President Bush addresses the nation Saturday from the White House.
President Bush addresses the nation Saturday from the White House.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The following is a recap of President Bush's day, as recounted to CNN by a senior administration official:

8 a.m. EST

President Bush, at the Camp David retreat, receives his usual intelligence briefing.

9 a.m. EST

White House Chief of Staff Andy Card, also at Camp David, is channel surfing, flipping through TV stations, and begins watching NASA Television, awaiting the landing. He sees that NASA has lost contact with the space shuttle Columbia.

Card calls the Situation Room and then NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe but could not reach him. Card tells Bush that NASA has lost contact with the shuttle.

Bush's initial reaction is that he is deeply concerned for those on board, especially for the families. He tells Card to keep him updated as events unfold and to keep in close contact with O'Keefe.

9:15 a.m. EST

Card and O'Keefe speak. O'Keefe updates him on the situation.

Card notifies National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who is at Camp David, as well as Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers.

10:30 a.m. EST

Bush is briefed by O'Keefe by phone and decides to cut short his stay at Camp David.

12:15 p.m. EST

Bush returns to the White House via a speeding motorcade.

12:30 p.m. EST

The president has returned to the Oval Office. Soon after, he is briefed by O'Keefe by phone, who tells Bush that the families are "holding up exceptionally well ... they are a courageous group of people."

Bush tells O'Keefe that "this was a tough day for all."

12:40 p.m. EST

Bush holds a conference call with victims' families, who had assembled in a conference room at Kennedy Space Center. Bush is standing at his desk in the Oval Office.

The president's motorcade returns from Camp David to Washington.
The president's motorcade returns from Camp David to Washington.

In the conversation, which takes place over a speaker phone, Bush says, "I express my love and appreciation for all who died today. I want their loved ones to know there are millions of people praying for you.... I hope that brings some comfort to you. This was an incredibly tough day. May God Bless you all. I wish I was there to hug, cry and comfort you. God Bless you all. God Bless."

12:45 p.m. EST

Bush is briefed by advisers in the Roosevelt Room: Rice, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, and his science adviser, regarding fallen shuttle debris.

1:25 p.m. EST

Bush calls Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to offer condolences.

1:25 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. EST

Bush returns condolence calls from Mexican President Vicente Fox, French President Jacques Chirac, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien.

Iraq is discussed in none of these calls. Between the calls, Bush prepares to address the nation.

2 p.m. EST

The president addresses the nation from the Cabinet Room at the White House. "Columbia is lost," he says, "there are no survivors."


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