The 'Silver Fox' Unplugged

There is a myth in the United States--you've heard it many times. It says that all American mothers hope that their child will grow up to be President of the United States. In my case that certainly is a myth. I never dreamed that any of ours would; there were days when I hoped that they'd just grow up!

I did hope for our children to be happy. I also hoped they would be decent, responsible, independent, and caring. Besides that, I hoped they would believe in a greater being, God. All our children have achieved those dreams.

But on January 20, 2001, even without having wished that one of our children would grow up to be president, there we were sitting on the west side of the United States Capitol, waiting for our son, George W., to be sworn in as the forty-third president of the United States of America. Can anyone understand how we felt? I'm not sure we did. Afterward, I wrote down my thoughts during the Inauguration:

I know I should be thinking marvelous deep and lofty thoughts, but I find myself thinking of Al Gore and what he must be feeling. He walked down the steps with a broad smile on his face and I saw him shaking hands with Coretta Scott King and other friends. His step faltered a little when he came to Jim Baker. He shook his hand and moved on. Jim Baker was George W.'s lead lawyer in Florida. Jim certainly acted as a statesman throughout the whole hideous vote recount debacle. The V.P. walked down the steps and took his seat one over from the Supreme Court. I'm sure that Al Gore has no love for them after their vote to stop the recount. And, if one can believe many of the speculative stories about why Al Gore lost the election, he is sitting next to the man who he believes lost the election for him, Bill Clinton. I'm sure he thinks he won the race, and although I don't, I do feel sorry for him. He is gracious, and a minute ago came over to shake our hands and to meet Jenna and Barbara, George and Laura's twin daughters. We've lost and losing is not easy. What an incredible eight years it had been...

Today is our Robin's birthday. It is hard to believe that she would be 49!!! Amazing how real she is in my mind. She is still almost 4 years old.

George flew with the President to the King of Morocco's funeral. He told me that Chelsea came back and said that she had heard that one of our granddaughters was considering Stanford. She said that she'd love to talk to her if she had any questions. We both thought that was really nice.

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd sent me a haunting little book, Silk, by Alessandro Baricco. George had written and congratulated her on her recent Pulitzer Prize and had mentioned my operation. At the same time he invited her to come to Kennebunkport. She said that she might come and bring a friend who loves golf. She also said that she might have to bash George W. George said that was okay, but that she "might have to watch the Silver Fox." I used to enjoy Maureen when she bashed "them"--not us. Maureen is a brilliant writer, no doubt. I really do not read her any more as she sounds so bitter, so unhappy, so negative, so clever, and straining to be different. Sometimes I don't even get what she is talking about! I'm sure this won't bother her, but it makes me sad. I am afraid George still reads her and likes her, although he, too, gets furious when she snidely attacks the president.

The feeding frenzy over George's not answering the Big "C" question is driving me crazy. I confess that I had to ask what "C" stood for and was shocked when Doro [the Bushes' daughter] told me that it stood for cocaine. His dad and I react differently. I am sick of it, yell at the tube, and go into another room. His dad watches every holier-than-thou commentator and political opponent. My gut feeling is that he should not answer the question; not because he has or has NOT used drugs, but because what he did 25 years ago is not relevant now. Incidentally, nobody has come forward to say he did use cocaine, and I have not asked him, nor has his father. His opponents in both parties are really loving it all.

We flew to Washington on September 10, 2001, to attend several meetings and a dinner, spending the night at the White House. The president was in Florida, but we had a nice visit with Laura. On September 11, George and I kissed her good-bye early as we were flying to Houston via St. Paul, Minnesota, where we both were to speak.

We had settled down comfortably on the plane, drinking coffee, reading the papers, and working on the computer when the co-pilot came back and reported that a commercial plane had flown into one of the World Trade Center buildings. While we were absorbing this--wondering how it could be--the pilot came back and said that we had to land at the nearest airport as the second World Trade building had been hit. All planes were being grounded. Now we knew this was not an accident but a terrorist attack.

We landed at the airport in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and were driven outside the city to a motel. Like everybody else, we spent the day glued to the television. We watched in horror again and again and again the replay of the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, and heard rumors of a plane downed in Pennsylvania. We feared for our children and grandchildren. We were no different from most Americans with one huge exception--we had Secret Service, and so knew that George W. and Laura and the girls were safe. We talked to several of our children. Of course phone lines were jammed with frantic parents and children and spouses checking on each other and seeking comfort.

We later learned that Marvin had been in New York on a subway under Wall Street, on his way to a meeting. The train came to a stop and they had no idea what had happened. Eventually they were evacuated, single-file, onto a platform and then out of the subway. They were told either to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge or walk uptown; but get out of there. I also learned later that my nephew Jim Pierce narrowly escaped injury or possible death. He was scheduled to attend a meeting on the 102nd floor of the South Tower, which was the second building hit. However, the night before, the meeting was moved to an adjacent building because the group had outgrown the conference room. Jim later learned that twelve people were in the room where he was supposed to be; eleven died.

After about five hours in our hotel room, we left and searched for walking shoes in a totally empty, closed-down mall. We finally found some in an almost empty sports store. We took a long walk on a public golf course across the highway from our motel where people were playing golf. They were shocked to see George, and were so nice. I walked a hole or two, but couldn't manage much more due to a recent back operation. So I sat on a bench as George charged around the course talking to people. It all seemed so normal. I wondered if they knew exactly what had happened that morning.

I think now that I didn't really understand the ramifications of the attack. I know George realized that day that the world had totally turned around and upside down. I know he knew of the huge problems that faced our son, the President of the United States. It took me much longer to realize that September 11, 2001, was the day the whole world changed; certainly for the United States of America.

As we drove back to the motel, we saw an Outback restaurant and realized that we had not eaten all day. So we immediately went in. A preacher and his wife told us, "We hate to bother you, but please tell your son we're praying for him." As we sat in a booth, one by one, men and some women came over to talk to George: "I'm a truck driver. Tell your son we're with him." "I was in 'Nam and I'll go again." This is a great country.

The next morning we got permission to fly back to Kennebunkport, where the Secret Service were set up with full protection. Flying from a totally closed-down airport, through a totally empty sky, to a totally closed-down airport was eerie. But it was nice to be home.