The Vatican Exhibit at the Texas Tech Museum has attracted thousands of visitors to the Hub City this summer, including a very special visitor this weekend. First Lady Laura Bush took a tour of the exhibit on Saturday afternoon. Before her tour, she sat down one on one with NewsChannel 11's Beejal Patel and talked about the aftermath of September 11th.
All of us remember where we were and what we were doing when news about the terrorist attacks spread. That's where we begin the second part of our interview with the First Lady.
"I was just getting into the car to drive to Capitol Hill. I was going to brief the Senate Education Committee on the results of the summit I had at the White House on early childhood education, so I was with Senator Kennedy in his office when we saw the first tower collapse," said Mrs. Bush.
Shock and sadness overcame Mrs. Bush. The First Lady was closer to the impending tragedy than she first realized.
"There was a while when they evacuated the White House before we knew about the flight into the Pentagon and the crash in Pennsylvania. I know my staff members were very afraid, and none of them expected when they got a job at the White House they would be told to run for their lives like they were on that day," said Mrs. Bush.
In the days after September 11th, many people looked to the White House for reassurance. It was then that Mrs. Bush learned just how strong her country was.
"When something like that happened to our country, I think everybody got a strength that maybe they didn't realize they had," she said.
When the dust settled, the First Lady opened her heart to the victims and survivors.
"I met a lot of survivors when I went to the memorial service at the field in Pennsylvania where the plane crashed. I went to the school that was evacuated in the shadow of the World Trade Center, and one thing I saw was how strong all these people were. Both my husband and I are strengthened by the strength of all these Americans, and the ones who suffered the most impact because they kissed somebody goodbye that morning and never got to see them again," she said.
September 11th changed many of us, and Mrs. Bush is no exception.
"I think I'm probably more serious, and I also think I, just like many other Americans, don't take for granted our freedoms anymore. I know how important our freedoms are and how fortunate we are to be Americans and to have such a wonderful country with so many people who are so strong," said Mrs. Bush.
"The firemen, policemen, and teachers, all the workers who we take for granted, showed us what heroes they were, and now I like it that they're the celebrities," said Mrs. Bush.