Published September 10, 2002
WASHINGTON – Fox News Channel's Brit Hume talks one-on-one with first lady Laura Bush about her own feelings following Sept. 11 and the contributions she and her husband have made to the nation's emotional recovery.
BRIT HUME, HOST: Mrs. Bush, thank you for doing this.
FIRST LADY LAURA BUSH: Thanks.
HUME: What have you most noticed about your husband in the aftermath of Sept. 11?
LAURA BUSH: Well, I guess what I've noticed the most is the characteristics that I already knew he had. That the American people had a chance to see what those characteristics were but the discipline that he has and the way he is very deliberate and he's very just and he's patient, which is one of the characteristics he says he has to work on the most. And then the way he empathizes with the way people are and the way people hurt after Sept. 11.
HUME: Now the immediate aftermath of that there was a lot of confusion and people were not first sure where he was on that day and we've been through all that before, but let's go to the days of the immediate aftermath and as he got ready to do the things -- the speeches he made, the speech at the Cathedral, when he took part in that service and then the speech before Congress. How did he go about that? What was he like during that period?
LAURA BUSH: Well he was very disciplined which he is anyway but he had to be because he wanted not to be so emotional when he gave those speeches. The Bush family is known for being weepy, crying at the drop of a hat, and he did not want to do that. And so he was very, very careful.
He practiced his speech a lot so that he could get through it when we were at the National Cathedral. His sister Dorothy has gone with us and he said to her, 'I'm not going to look at you during the speech' because he knew she would be weeping and he would have a hard time not weeping if he looked at her. So he ... there was a whole lot of resolve, there was a lot of discipline, there was very deliberate thought with everyone ... with all his administration ... everyone he was meeting with. It was not going to be just a reaction to what happened. He isn't a reactionary, which I really admire and respect, and I think that's what the American people see in him as well that they admire and respect.
HUME: Now he's often spoken with more openness than many presidents about his faith. What did you see in the exercise of his faith in that time?
LAURA BUSH: Well, I know that everyone ... I mean I really think there was a huge surge again and people going back to the synagogue or back to church or back to the mosque because people really needed the comfort of faith. When anything happens like it did on Sept. 11, it's so inexplicable, there is no way to understand it, or no way to explain what happened. I think people really turned to their faith.
But he always is very devoted to his faith. He reads the Bible everyday anyway. He was already doing that, but I think those mornings after Sept 11 when he read his devotional, read the Bible, I'm sure that is really when he could take comfort in it. It was a very, very important time for him.
HUME: Now you mentioned people returned to synagogue and churches and mosques across America and there was for a time at least there seemed to be a resurgence of faith and values associated with faith. Do think that is receded and if so how much?
LAURA BUSH: I have no idea. I mean I don't know any statistics but of course I think it has probably receded a little bit ... people ... we are a year away. I think it may take up again this week. I know there will be a lot of people who will go to memorial services all over the country this week.
And I think Americans really have looked at their lives, they've looked at the values that they have. I'm so proud of the way Americans have responded but I think we are sort of surprised in some ways. We didn't realize we had, our generation had that strength that we think of when we think of my parents' generation, the greatest generation, for instance.
That strength of character and come to find out we had that too -- that resilience -- really is an American character that we saw. We saw it from the very first moments when rescue workers ran into the World Trade Center. When people on a plane, on Flight 93, chose to rush the cockpit. You know, it was just proven to us once again that great American character that great resilience that we have as a country.
HUME: Now, the president, as you've noticed, assumed this burden of leadership, which everyone knew and clearly felt was heavier after 9/11. There is a role for you in that as well of course. Talk to me about how you felt about what you needed to do and also the role your faith played in that?
LAURA BUSH: Well my faith is also very important to me but I grappled with it just like everyone did. You know, why did God let this happen? Why did so many people lose their lives, who were right at the peak of their lives? Young people whose wives were at home pregnant or whose husbands were home with their little girls. One family that I met that was on Flight 93, we all went through every single part of that, but I also felt like I really had the responsibility just like my husband did. He has the responsibility and really the true burden of making the decisions that will keep every America safe.
But I also had a responsibility since he is president to talk about the things I already knew about and that I already talked about and that was what we could do to reassure our children to make sure our children feel safe in our country and know that their loved and that their taken care of. You know, what I could say to parents to encourage them to make sure for instance, coming up here on Sept 11, don't watch all the coverage all day. It's just not really appropriate for children to see all day. So I want to encourage families to make sure to turn the TV off or they walk their children out of the room if something is on that they don't think it appropriate.
HUME: I don't want to encourage you to knock our ratings down, but what is it particularly that you are worried about them seeing? Is the pictures of the attack itself?
LAURA BUSH: Well, I don't want them seeing pictures of the attack over and over. I think that's difficult. And I think that they don't know if it's current or if it's ... little children wouldn't know. I do think there is a role for parents to have a little memorial service that's appropriate for the age of their child. They could light a candle. They could share a meal. They could say a prayer. They could ask their children to draw pictures or write a card again to someone who lost somebody on Sept. 11 last year or their local fireman. All those things I think are appropriate and they are ways for their parents to discuss their feelings of sadness that they have again this year when they see it and go through it all again in their minds.
And that that's very normal that adults feel sad too and I think that is appropriate to share with our children too. Not to put the burden of our feelings on them.
HUME: You know those pictures of the attack itself have been surprisingly seldom seen in the aftermath?
LAURA BUSH: That's right, and I really respect the media for doing that and particularly in the first days after Sept 11. I thought there was a solemnness and a seriousness and a very respectful press coverage of the families that had lost somebody and that were suffering so much.
HUME: Do you think we need to be reminded -- adults anyway -- of the horror of that and what an atrocity it was?
LAURA BUSH: Well certainly. I just came from the museum, the Smithsonian American History museum where they will open this exhibit on Sept. 11 that's a few special things -- from Sept. 11 photographs, firemen uniforms, all of those things. Just walking through that exhibit I felt exactly how I felt a year ago. I had those same feelings and I ...
HUME: Describe those feelings?
LAURA BUSH: Well the sadness, the horror of it. The horror of what a huge tragedy it was and also the idea that so many people, so many people's lives were lost on that day. Not only were those lives lost but all the people that loved them. Their family members and their friends lost something on that day too. You know, it's just tough, it really is tough. It's going to be a very tough anniversary for all Americans I think.
HUME: You said that you searched your mind and heart as to how God could let this happen. How did you come out on that question?
LAURA BUSH: I heard Cardinal McCarrick say something I hadn't really thought about. I believe, I truly believe God has given us this beautiful majestic world to live in and it's a wonderful gift to us and that we get to choose how we live it. How we live the lives we have. Cardinal McCarrick said, and I thought it was interesting, if there aren't bad things, there wouldn't be saints.
And the fact is if there hadn't been the terrible evil, there wouldn't be the really good that we saw, the goodness that we saw as well. So I think, I believe that God has given our lives to live and it's up to us to make it as good and as meaningful as we possibly can.
HUME: It's been said, that this horror, this atrocity gave meaning and focuses to your husband's presidency. I guess that is self-evidently true but how does that look through your eyes?
LAURA BUSH: Well I don't know. What a horrible, horrible way to ... and I think he was already focused on the presidency. I think in a lot of ways certainly there is a new mission. There is a new mission for our whole country. There is a new mission for all of us. And one thing I hope for Americans on Sept. 11 is that we think about what we went through last year that will resolve again to make our own lives meaningful.
HUME: Do you worry about the depth of that resolve having leaked away.
LAURA BUSH: No, not really, not really.
HUME: Because life has really, is really back to normal in respects.
LAURA BUSH: It's very hard to be constantly vigilant. It's very difficult. And it isn't even what we want our country to be. We want to have the same feelings of freedom that we had before, where we were, you know, where we weren't worried about things and were aren't trying to figure out ways to take care of our children and nurture them through something so horrible. We all want that again. I want that for our country.
But at the same time, because of what happened on Sept. 11, we have the chance to honor the lives of the people who died on Sept. 11 and to honor the lives of our military who are right now deployed overseas protecting those very freedoms that are so important to us. And one of the things that I think we saw on Sept. 11 is how precious our freedoms are and how we might have taken them for granted.
Certainly, as we watched the Taliban and we saw the way woman were treated and how little girls couldn't get an education and woman couldn't even leave their homes without a male family member -- all of those things really contrast to our freedoms that we take for granted and that all the generations before us have defended in some way.
And now it's our turn to defend those freedoms.
HUME: Describe if you can. I think a lot of people would be interested in knowing, what role in your life and in your husband's the first President Bush and Mrs. Bush have played? There still very much among us. They are on the national scene, visible. How does that fit into this picture?
LAURA BUSH: Well they play the role of parents. They play the role of very loving and great parents. We are really lucky we had very stable parents who had happy marriages with each other, who love their children and let their children know it. And that's the role they play now.
HUME: You know there are people that say that the president and his father talk all the time but the general belief is that he really doesn't consult him much about policy and issues. Is that true?
LAURA BUSH: That is true. We talk a lot to them. They usually call in every Sunday, early in the morning.
HUME: I take it they can get through OK?
LAURA BUSH: (laughing) Yeah, he wants to hear what is going on but we also talk about our kids. We talk about family life and we talk about sports, of course, and all the things that every other dad and son and mother-in-law and daughter-in-law talk about.
HUME: What do you now miss most about life before the White House and what are the highlights since you've been here?
LAURA BUSH: Well I'm really glad to be here. I really am glad to be here in the White House. I'm glad my husband is president. I'm proud of him. I'm glad I had the opportunity to do things that are constructive for our country, especially in this time.
On Sept 12, I called my staff together. They had been told to run from the White House to run for their lives and a lot of young woman work for me on my staff. None of them expected that when they signed up to work at the White House. They thought they would have a really glamorous White House job. Needless to say, they were very distraught, but I talked about how we had the chance to do something because we were here, because they work at the White House. Because we were here, we had the chance to be very constructive for our country and I feel this urgency to feel constructive and I know my husband does too because you are only here for so long in this house, when you are elected to live in the White House, and you know I really feel an urgency to do as much as I possibly can and to make things better for our country.
HUME: Mrs. Bush, thank you very much.
LAURA BUSH: Thanks a lot, Brit.