Side-by-side were aides, consultants, directors-of-this, deputies-of-that, secret service agents, and miscellaneous staffers. A janitor stood outside earnestly pretending to clean and dust a picture that no one ever noticed or really cared about simply because his President was going to speak, and he didn't want to miss this.
Jed knew how important he was at the moment - he was speaking directly to his people, to every single American. He had to stay composed and still allow the nation to gain a sense of emotion from him, too. He cleared his throat.
The cameras responded in a roar of clicks.
It was time.
Josh was getting goosebumps. Donna must be contagious.
President Bartlet was about to begin and, out of the corner of his eye, Josh saw CJ's head nodding slightly - the rhythm of the speech was already reverberating in her mind.
For some reason it startled Josh when the President started to speak. Maybe it was the serious-but-compassionate tone or the aura of the room in general. Either way, there was an overwhelming calm and clarity. And the words were powerful, meaningful:
"Good evening. Fellow citizens, the very freedom of the nation was attacked today. The victims were our parents, siblings, our friends, neighbors, and relatives. They were people we knew very well and loved, and they were people we didn't know, ones we hadn't met yet. But these despicable acts were carried out on Americans. Just the fact that these people were in our country when this happened - that connection alone binds us and our hearts and prayers with every single victim in the tragedy today.
America is strong and we were targeted because we are the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world. And we will continue to be that great beacon - no one will keep that light from shining.
Our first priority is to help the victims and their families. Then we will take care of everything else. The scope of these acts and those who organized this - the terrorists themselves and those who harbored them - will be exposed and will not be left unpunished.
On behalf of the American people, I would like to thank the world leaders that have begun to voice their condolences for the United States. I hope that together, we can win the war against terrorism and stop evil acts such as those today. This is a plague that needs to end. But we can't do it on our own - we will need some help.
'Though, I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.'
No one will forget this day.
Thank you and good night.
God Bless America."
Ginger finally found Toby in Sam's office which was oddly lacking of Sam. Toby seemed to be trying to avoid her for some reason.
"You have an important phone call."
Darn it. She had found him.
"Yeah. Thank you Ginger."
All his phone calls were important.
They were always urgent, too.
"It's from Manhattan."
Everyone would be getting some phone calls from Manhattan.
"It's your cousin."
"It was a nice speech."
There was a brief silence.
"Donna, do you have any food at home?"
"Do you want to come over for dinner?"
"Oh, no. I've got some bread and a turnip in the fridge. I'm ok."
"You're coming over."
"If you insist. I have to tell you though, I've been waiting for an excuse to eat that turnip. And I think that the alternative to not eating it - going hungry - is a pretty good excuse."
"Josh. You don't eat turnips. I bet you've never even had one before. Come over."
"Ok. I'm just going to make a couple phone calls and I'll catch up with you."
Donna closed the door to his office behind her. He was impossible sometimes; it was like arguing with a child. She sighed. He was just so... so... In a word, he was:
Toby found CJ at her desk.
"I passed Danny in the hall."
She didn't look up.
"Yeah. I was giving him some last minute info and questions to ask, and I thanked him for his cooperation."
She waited for him to say what he was going to say.
"They're okay. They had been in the building a few minutes when the plane hit, so they got out. They're okay."
She stood up and looked at him, smiling a little bit. She spoke sincerely.
"I'm glad they're okay."
Sam walked in.
"What are you doing?"
"Penciling some things in and getting ready to leave."
"Going home, too?"
"Yah. I thought I would. Actually, I wanted to leave a note for the President - I'll talk to him if he has time tomorrow."
Charlie looked at the President's schedule.
"He might have a few minutes here or there, but don't expect anything. I'll be sure to mention it, though."
"Well, I'm finished here."
They walked out and were joined by Leo.
"I hope you don't mind if I follow you two out."
"Your company's never a burden, Mr. McGarry."
It was late. Jed sat up, the television partially illuminating the room, but he wasn't interested in watching the TV. The light played shadows across Abbey's face. He watched her sleep, and was deep in thought.
He imagined the extent of strain that this whole event would settle on him, his family, and his staff. But he just had to keep doing his job.
It struck him how incredible it was that a single day could change everything so significantly. The lives, the economy, the sense of security - everything in the United States was radically different from the day before. The day had seemed so long, making yesterday like a day passed an eternity ago. Jed was resigned to the fact that today was today - it wouldn't change - and tomorrow was another day.
Well, actually, it had been tomorrow for a while now.