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Previously unseen Sept. 11 photos show Bush, Cheney, Rice in hours after attacks

Vice President Dick Cheney watches news coverage as the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks unfold.
(David Bohrer / National Archives)

One image shows Vice President Dick Cheney watching his television, smoke and flames rising from the twin towers. In another, he stares straight ahead, his face reddened.

And a third shows Cheney and his wife, Lynne, exiting the Marine 2 helicopter at a location not disclosed that day, now known to be Camp David.

All three images are part of a group of previously unseen photographs of President Bush, Cheney, national security advisor Condoleezza Rice and other White House staffers in the moments and hours after two planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York, a third tore into the Pentagon and a fourth hurtled into an empty Pennsylvania field on Sept. 11, 2001.

The images were released Friday in response to a Freedom of Information request received by the National Archives from Colette Neirouz Hanna of the Kirk Documentary Group.

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“The emotion on the faces of everyone in that room that day really told the story about the gravity of what was happening and the decisions that were being made,” said David Bohrer, the White House photographer who shot the pictures.

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When he first heard about the World Trade Center attack, Bohrer, who was in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, grabbed his cameras and ran to the vice president’s office in the West Wing, about 15 yards away.

As the Secret Service evacuated the vice president to a bunker beneath the White House, Bohrer shot continuously. “I took pictures even as we were running through the White House,” said the former Los Angeles Times photographer.

In the bunker, known as the President’s Emergency Operations Center, he captured photo after photo of telling details. Soda cans, coffee cups and a tray of cookies sit in the middle of a table.

For the next 5 1/2 days, Bohrer stayed with the vice president in the bunker, Camp David and other locations. “I didn’t really get a chance to personally process it all and reflect on what truly happened until I finally did get home,” he said.

Bohrer, now a photographer for the National Assn. of Manufacturers, said he was honored to capture the extraordinary moments with the nation’s leaders on film.

Rice can be seen resting her head on her fist. CIA Director George Tenet watches Bush deliver a national address on TV. And First Lady Laura Bush wears a look of subdued shock as she leans against a wall beside Lynne Cheney.

“I hope it allows everyone to be able to understand and visualize that terrible day in the lives of our leaders and the country,” Bohrer said.

Does he still look at the photos he took on Sept. 11 and the days after?

Some periodically, he said. Some, not at all.

natalie.schachar@latimes.com

Twitter: @natalieschachar

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