National Geographic Channel, presenting Thursday at the Television Critics Tour, released a preview from “George W. Bush: The 9/11 Interview,” an exclusive conversation with the former president that will air on Aug. 28.
The interview-based documentary will subsequently be broadcast globally on NatGeo channels in 188 countries in September.
Taped over two days (beginning, coincidentally, the day after the death of Osama bin Laden, which Bush also comments on), the program features revelations from President Bush about his experience following the Sept. 11 attacks.
“I went from being a president focused on domestic issues to a wartime president,” Bush says in the doc, “something I never anticipated and that I never wanted to be.”
Bush, as has been well documented, was in a children’s classroom when he was notified of the attacks.
“My first reaction was anger: Who the hell would do that to America?” Bush recalls. “And then I immediately focused on the children, and the contrast between the ferociousness of the attack and the innocence of the children made clear … my job was to protect.
“A lot of times a president is placed in a bubble or a capsule. This time, I was able to see the reactions of my fellow citizens.”
Peter Schnall is exec producing and directed the interview, which he conducted.
“I would say that the things that were most interesting and surprising to me were more so the manner in which he told the story of the events that unfolded,” Schnall said. “The President, in perhaps more detail than he has ever done before, spoke about, hour by hour, day by day, the events he went through both as President and commander-in-chief and as father and husband.
“I feel the audience will come away form this film with a deeper understanding of what it must have been like when the United States was under attack and the President was on the run. He didn’t know who the enemy was for the first few hours.”
Schnall said Bush became most emotional recalling the crash in Pennsylvania of the fourth plane, when at the time Bush didn’t know at first if terrorists or the Air Force had shot it down.
The Bush interview will help launch numerous NatGeo programs dedicated to the 10th anni of the tragedy.