'We're Under Attack': Native Pittsburgher Escorted President On 9/11

PITTSBURGH,None — For Pittsburgh native Eddie Marinzel, Sept. 11, 2001, started with a morning jog on a golf course in Sarasota, Fla., with the president of the United States.

Marinzel was the deputy special agent in charge of the Presidential Protective Division for the Secret Service on the day of the attacks. He said as he was escorting President George W. Bush into a nearby elementary school, he knew the rest of the day would be anything but normal.

"As we were walking in, Karl Rove actually mentioned to the president that a plane had hit one of the Twin Towers," Marinzel said.

Marinzel said 15 minutes later President Bush's chief of staff reported more bad news.

"When I saw the look on the president's face I knew there was a problem, a bad problem. Andy Card then came over and whispered the same thing into my year and that was that we were under an attack," Marinzel said. "Right then and there things completely changed. We needed to figure out what we were going to do with the president."

Marinzel said after a few brief words to the audience at the school, President Bush was back in his motorcade en route to Air Force One when they got word that the Pentagon had also been attacked.

At that point, Marinzel said the crew had to make a quick decision on where the president would be the most safe. He said the group decided on Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana because of the exceptional communications department located there. But Marinzel said that was not where the president wanted to go.

"He was adamant that he wanted to back to D.C. We could not take him to an unsecured area. The greatest thing for the terrorist would be to kill the president of the United States," said Marinzel.

The president recorded a message that was aired after he left the base in Louisiana and traveled to an Air Force base in Nebraska, where Marinzel said President Bush made it clear that it was time to return to the capital.

"I was seated behind the president. He turned to me and said, 'Eddie, let's go. We are going back to Washington.' At that point I knew it wasn't the time to argue or try to change his mind. I knew it was over," said Marinzel.

On 9/11 Marinzel said President Bush remained calm in front of his staff and he saw little change afterward.

"He was always very principled and hardworking. None of that changes. I do feel that he was determined that this would never happen on American soil again. Use all the assets the U.S. had to offer to make sure that we would never be attacked in the homeland again and he made that kind of hallmark on his job," Marinzel said.

Marinzel said the events of 9/11 didn't change the way the Secret Service operated either; it just made them work even harder.

"One lasting thing from 9/11: Our hearts still go out to the victims and the families affected and every time we think of that, you have more resolve that you are going to do your job to the best of your ability," said Marinzel.

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