of State Colin Powell
en Route to Washington, D.C.
September 11, 2001
@4:00 P.M. EDT
SECRETARY POWELL: I know that we all feel a deep sense of loss, a deep sense
of sadness and outrage at what happened in the United States today, and my heart
goes out to all those who lost their lives and to their families. And, you can
be sure that the United States Government will do everything to find the perpetrators
of this cowardly attack against innocent people and bring them to justice.
As you know, I got word of this while I was meeting with President Toledo at
about 8:35*. It was an initial report, it was not accurate, but it was serious
enough to give me a sense that something terrible had happened. I briefed the
President and his colleagues and a few moments later an updated message came
in that started to give a better understanding of how serious this was. We finished
the meeting. By then it was clear that a major disaster was unfolding back home.
So I immediately made a decision to return home. But it would take a little
while to get the airplane ready, and it also gave me the opportunity to go to
the beginning of the conference where I was surrounded by colleague after colleague,
foreign minister after foreign minister expressing regrets and extending their
condolences to the United States and to the families of those who lost their
I think you saw what happened on the remote screens out in the conference room,
the expressions of sadness and the resolution of support from the OAS. They
gave me an opportunity to say a few words and make the point that at a meeting
where we are celebrating democracy, let there be no doubt that buildings can
be destroyed and precious lives can be lost but our society cannot be destroyed
and our democracy cannot be destroyed. Our spirit as a nation cannot be destroyed.
They then at their suggestion immediately brought forward the declaration that
we were there to consider, and I think you saw the nations accept it by acclamation,
standing in support of this acclamation of democracy, but I think also standing
and applauding in solidarity with the American people.
With respect to the events of the day, as you know when we took off, both towers
of the World Trade Center had fallen, serious fire at the Pentagon which is
still raging and has not been brought under control yet. Other planes crashed
elsewhere in the United States, one crashed near Camp David and the other crashed
out in western Pennsylvania**. To the best of my knowledge thats all that
happened. No damage to the best of my knowledge was done from those. So it was
obviously a well-coordinated, extensive assault against the United States. You
may have gotten an earlier report that there was a car bomb outside the State
Department, but that is not the case.
The President spoke to the nation not too long ago and is in a secure facility.
The Vice President is in the secure facilities in Washington. The National Security
team is intact and everything is being done to restore communications and to
restore all the things that have been disrupted in the course of this morning.
Ive spoken to Deputy Secretary Armitage twice. He is of course in constant
touch with the White House and Ive also spoken to Dr. Rice, and the President
and I, he tried to connect with me, but then we were moving and we were unable
to connect. I dont want to get into speculation as to who, what, where,
why. Theres been no reputable claim of responsibility yet.
World leaders have been calling in to express their concern and extend condolences.
I will get back to Washington immediately to contact leaders around the world
and get plugged into whats been going on. Because of this, were
in communications with the Department but were going to keep that minimized
due to the overload of communications all over the country at this time. I think
thats really all I have for you and Ill take one or two questions
if it flushes out what Ive said, but not to get into speculation.
QUESTION: Secretary Powell, as you know there have been a number of worldwide
cautions that your Department has issued, do you think, and I recognize that
its very early, but do you think that this is something that could have
originated from the people that were planning this trying to throw the U.S.
off their scent, obviously not thinking that this attack would happen on U.S.
SECRETARY POWELL: I dont know, I dont want to speculate on who,
what or whether the warnings are connected to this. I dont know the answers
to any of the questions you might pose to me with respect to responsibility
or what triggered it. I just dont know.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, anything on the casualties, also on the types of aircraft
that were used.
SECRETARY POWELL: Obviously, I dont know the casualty numbers and they
will be very large. The information I have on airplanes was a 767 coming out
of Logan that went into the World Trade Center bound for Los Angeles. I dont
have enough details on the others to comment.
QUESTION: Will you be able to work out of the State Department? Is the State
SECRETARY POWELL: The State Department is functioning. I will be working out
of lots of places.
QUESTION: Have you heard yet whether anybody has been able to identify, at least
by name, the people who hijacked the planes?
SECRETARY POWELL: No. Im sure the FBI is on that and other agencies are
on it. I dont have any information.
QUESTION: Those two aircraft that crashed, do you have any sense of where they
were headed to?
SECRETARY POWELL: One was going from Logan to LA --
QUESTION: No. The Camp David and Pennsylvania.
SECRETARY POWELL: No, I know nothing about them, all I heard were the reports
and I dont know if they are big airplanes or little airplanes or what.
There was concern that there might be other airplanes and so, I mean we have
AWACS up flying a CAP. All the airports are closed.
QUESTION: Did the State Department receive any kind of warning or did any U.S.
agency get any warning that youre aware of?
SECRETARY POWELL: Specific warning about this specific incident, nothing Im
aware of. Of course we have sent advisories and warnings out to embassies and
requests for any information they might have.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary is there anything now that you are prepared to ask other
countries to do to respond to this, are there any diplomatic initiatives that
SECRETARY POWELL: I dont have anything to give you at this time, Im
sure that there are many things that well be talking about in the days
ahead, but I dont have anything to give you now.
QUESTION: Whats the status of U.S. missions elsewhere in the world now?
SECRETARY POWELL: We have sent out advisories and cables to all of our U.S.
missions for them to take added security cautions, for them to be vigilant,
to be in touch with their host governments for not only security but also for
any assistance with respect to information concerning this that might be of
use to us.
* Actual time was 8:10.
**Correction: No plane crashed near Camp David.