- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 28, 2003

CRAWFORD, Texas (AP) — First lady Laura Bush said Americans are walking a tightrope of staying vigilant against further terrorist attacks while comforting their children during a time of heightened terrorism fears.

Asked whether the nation has recovered from the September 11 attacks, she said: “Not really.”

“Our world changed,” Mrs. Bush said in an interview yesterday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “We still are always aware of that. The rawness of it and the shock of it is diminished with time.”

She spoke as her husband’s administration kept the nation on high alert for a terrorist strike during the holiday season.

“We have to keep comforting our children, but we also have to be very vigilant as American citizens as we go about our work,” she said. “And that’s difficult, it’s very anxiety-provoking, but at the same time, it makes us know we have to put our arms around our children, be with them.”

The first lady recalled a moment of personal anxiety last month, when President Bush secretly flew to Baghdad to be with troops on Thanksgiving.

When she first learned of the stealth visit, she wanted to accompany her husband, but knew he did not plan to invite her.

“I was very anxious at first when he first started talking about it,” she said. But by the time he and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice drove off from the Bush ranch toward the airport, the day before Thanksgiving, her fears had subsided.

She was convinced that he would not have taken the trip if it has not been safe.

Her nervousness rose again and the secrecy shrouding the mission hit home when she did not hear from the president as she had expected after his Baghdad landing.

With the president’s parents en route to the Bush ranch for a holiday meal, Mrs. Bush called the head of her Secret Service protective detail to ask about her husband’s whereabouts.

The Secret Service agent told her the president was at the Texas ranch.

“I realized my detail didn’t know that he was” in Iraq, she said.

Mrs. Bush also said that a poem she recently attributed to her husband — in jest, she added — was not his work. The first lady had read the poem to an audience of book lovers in October after returning from a trip to Paris and Moscow. It read in part: “Roses are red/Violets are blue/Oh my lump in the bed/How I’ve missed you.”

Many people believed the president had written the poem, but she had been joking when she told listeners it was his, she said.

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