Moments after the first plane hit the World Trade Center, President Bush was told the U.S. was under attack. It was then the job of the pilot of Air Force One to keep the president safe, but also visible.
"I got the leader of the free world on-board, got to make sure we do everything right to keep him safe," recalled Colonel Mark Tillman.
Tillman knows exactly where he was on 9/11. At the time of the attacks, he was with the president in Sarasota, Florida.
While Bush was in a classroom full of children, Tillman was learning the facts on a terrorist plot that may include killing the president. Tillman's job was to make sure the president was kept out of sight, but visible.
"The plans were to move the president, keep moving him, make sure he's safe. None of those plans actually came into being because they weren't designed for the president to be totally visible. That was his plan: He wanted the American public to know that he was still leading the country," says Tillman.
Air Force One left Florida for Louisiana, then Nebraska, Bush making brief appearances at each stop, all while gathering details on the unfolding attacks on New York and Washington.
Friday Col. Tillman spoke to USAA employees as The company takes time to reflect on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. With the commander in chief aboard Air Force One, Tillman says they took evasive action on each take-off before finally heading home to Washington that evening for a presidential address to the nation.
"We countered them by taking off rather steep to make sure they didn't have a line of sight where they could shot at us," Tillman explained.
In addition to Colonel Tillman, USAA hosted a member of the New York Port Authority and a staff member at the Pentagon.