Disclaimer: All characters borrowed from The West Wing are owned by Mr. Aaron Sorkin.
Author's Note: The words are mine and the situations they convey are based on real life. I started writing this story very soon after these events occurred because my emotions were strongest then. I waited for three weeks to pass before putting this story up and I realize that that may not have been enough time for most people. I also received some (more or less) negative response to the quality of the writing. I would like to say that this is my first West Wing fic. I was initially hooked by the fast-paced conversations in the show and I tried to recapture that effect in writing. I understand that, for some, this story was posted too soon to be read and considered as 'real' writing, but I hope that if you read it you would review it in a way that would tell me what you liked about the writing so that I can write other things that people would enjoy reading. This fanfic was not designed to offend anyone, but to be a reminder. Thanks.

"Mr. President? If you don't get up now, you won't have time for your morning jog."
"Are you trying to tell me what to do, Charlie?"
"No sir. I'm just alerting you that you won't have time for a morning jog if you don't wake up now."
"Charlie."
"Yes, sir?"
"Do you know where I'm from?"
"Yes, sir. You were born and raised in New Hampshire."
"And do you know what we don't do in New Hampshire, Charlie?"
"Jog, sir?"
"Never in the morning. And now that I've been woken up, I think I'll have breakfast, Charlie."
"I'm sorry to have bothered you, Mr. President."
"Don't worry about it, Charlie."
"Yes, Mr. President. I'll notify your wife about breakfast."
"Thank you, Charlie."
"Yes, sir."
The door closed.
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"Mr. President, would you like to review the agenda again?"
"Charlie, I think I've got it: Let's see... I go to the school; I will be impressed by whatever the teacher and schoolchildren show or tell me; whenever they are done, I make my way to their media center and give an impressive speech about my education plan; everyone claps and is impressed; we leave and have an impressive little parade and then we eventually go back to Washington."
"That was a very impressive recollection, Mr. President."
"I'll forget it in five minutes. What was the name of the school again?"
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"Charlie, I can't breathe."
"Should I get your wife?"
"Not that. Tell these secret service agents to open up a little room. I don't want to scare the children."
"Yes, sir."
Jed Bartlet sighed. It was an elementary school. He hadn't seen any 7-year-olds with uzis yet, so he figured he didn't need to feel the breath of a no-named agent on his neck. He wasn't a convict who should be under close security, nor was this a prison housing a hundred of the aforementioned convicts.
Charlie returned to the President's side. "Uh, sir, you just passed the classroom."
"We're going to Room 53, Charlie?"
"Yes, sir, Mr. President."
"And we passed it?"
"Yes, sir."
"I thought we were still in the 30s... If you're wrong, Charlie, I swear I'll..."
"I know, Mr. President."
"But you're not wrong, are you Charlie?"
"No, sir."
"Okay."
The President stopped in mid-stride and turned around, nearly colliding with the agents who had still been nipping at his heels. He brushed through them and the rest of his posse. He could hear the bewildered scramblings of the group trying to reorganize behind him. He left them in their state and walked up to Room 53, which he had actually passed. He paused with his hand on the doorknob.
"This is the room, Charlie?"
"Yes, sir."
"Have you ever been wrong, Charlie?"
"I try not to be, Mr. President."
The President walked into the room.
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Jed smiled. It sure wasn't close to the type of complex literature he read or collected, but the enjoyment the kids were getting out of it - especially since the President was sitting in their classroom - was endearing and encouraging of the education proposal that was running through his mind for the fortieth time since he'd gotten to the school this morning to meet the principal.
A small black girl caught his eye, and he gave her a little nod. She smiled furiously and turned back to the book. All of the children were being on their best behavior, Jed imagined, but it had to be difficult to concentrate with a strange man in the classroom, let alone that the man was the President. He relaxed a little more, absorbing more of the ego-boosting respect and honesty pouring forth from these young faces.
Charlie pulled him back from his reverie in their innocence and whispered in his ear, "I'm sorry to bother you, Mr. President. Sir, we just got word, something has happened. A plane crashed into one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center."
Jed's smile dropped a level or two. The little black girl noticed, and her eyes grew questioning. Children, with their amazing abilities to be receptive of emotions, were the important things at the moment. He had to finish this. He gave the girl a reassuring smile. She knew something was wrong, or at least different, but she accepted his answer. As a child, she couldn't do anything more.
As the book came to a close, the President thanked the children and their teacher. He headed to the media center led by the principal. He almost missed that door too, however, by listening to Charlie's briefing on a revised speech - his original one would be delivered by someone else. He stepped into a packed room, expressions of awe fixating on him. The microphone was waiting for him - his words. He found himself searching for that pair of brown eyes - as if he needed to tell that one girl this the most. He wanted to explain to her, above everyone else in the room at that moment, what he had just learned. His gaze never found those eyes. He closed his eyes briefly and drew in a breath.
"Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I came here today to talk about education. I came to your school with the intention of telling you about this proposal - this idea - I have. Instead," He paused. "Instead, I am going to tell you about a horrible tragedy. Earlier this morning two airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center in an apparent terrorist attack on our country. I am going to have one of my staff speak to you about my education plan because I have business to take care of. Thank you very much for allowing me to come to your school."
He turned to shake the principal's hand. She mouthed, "Is it true?" Jed gave her a slight nod. He walked out of a room full of confused and upset faces.
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"Mr. President, we're going to take you and Dr. Bartlet to Louisiana."
"Where's Charlie?"
"He's staying in Florida to wrap things up. We're heading to the Barksdale Air Force Base."
"What do we know?"
"I beg your pardon, sir?"
Bartlet just blinked. "You mean to tell me that we have a national crisis on our hands, and you haven't the faintest clue what I could mean by asking you what we know?"
"I'm sorry, sir. I'm a little shaken... I know people there, I'm not thinking."
Jed's look softened, but he kept the same crisp composure in his voice, the same authoritative tone, "Son, we are the United States Government. We all know people in New York. And as the United States Government, we can't afford to be shaken, we can't risk not thinking."
The man, looking oddly wise and helpless at the same time, nodded.
"Now, what do we know?"