The moment, captured on television, is frozen in history — the shock on George W. Bush’s face as he learns that a second aircraft has crashed into the World Trade Centre.
Bush’s reaction as Andy Card, his chief of staff, whispers the news into his ear that America is under attack, has become an indelible memory for many who watched the events of the terrible day unfold.
Yet most of those who were there and witnessed the drama first-hand were children — seven- and eight-year-olds at a Florida primary school who were reading the president a story about a goat as the audacious act of terrorism happened 1,200 miles away in New York.
When the reading concluded, Bush praised the class for their reading skills, then moved to the school’s media centre next door.
He took a phone call and gave a short news conference before being hustled to the airport and the safety of the skies aboard Air Force One.
Later, there were calls by critics for Bush to be impeached for sitting and doing nothing for so long, having already been advised that the US was being attacked on a scale never seen before.
But the children who were there remain convinced that Bush made the right decision, buying himself time to think while not distressing them by rushing from the classroom.
“He did the best that he could,” said Chantal Guerrero, 17, now a student at the Sarasota military academy.