Standing Side-By-Side with the Leader of the Free World

USMC Officer Lt. Col. Darling goes headlong into the details of September 11, 2001, and explains how the terrorists got it wrong. 

Lieutenant Col. Robert Darling had his homecoming on September 11, 2015, at Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh. A graduate of Newburgh Free Academy and Iona College, Lt. Darling served in the White House Military Office, Airlift Operations Department for President George W. Bush. He retired from his post in the marines in 2007 and since then published a tell-all book documenting the hours he spent side-by-side with the leader of the free world on September 11th: 24 Hours in the President’s Bunker, 9-11-2001($16.95) 

Lt. Col. Darling and his wife of 23 years, Angela met at Iona College

He made his way towards the Aquinas Hall auditorium with his wife, Angela, at his side and proceeded to captivate, entertain and bring an audience of nearly 500 to tears. His goal, he said, was to illustrate that the world's most entrusted leaders did the absolute best they could with the information at hand on that unprecedented day. His first-person retelling of those hours spent with Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a bunker underneath the White House were a window into little known facts and details about the US, its allies and its military capabilities. 

  • The evacuation of the White House on September 11th was the second occurrence in history. The first was when the British were burning D.C. in 1812. 
  • An inbound medevac helicopter using the wrong frequency was nearly shot down after being mistaken for enemy aircraft.
  • Logistically pulling all of the planes out of the sky that day included making provisions for national medical emergency flights.
  • Continuity of the Presidency was enacted and the whereabouts of Air Force One were made covert. 

“It’s very important that we never forget…the nearly 3,000 brave Americans who were trapped in the World Trade Center towers, working at their desks at the Pentagon, or fighting for their very lives on Flight 93,” Darling said. “But the terrorists got it wrong. Instead of destroying us, they united us.”

Photo by Lee Ferris/Mount Saint Mary College

This lecture was made possible by Nick Preddice of the Affinity Group LLC., MassMutual Albany and Hudson Vally, Fox Radio, Finkelstein and Partners LLP., and Mount Saint Mary College’s Samuel D. Affron Memorial Lecture Series.

Students from Newburgh Free Academy North Campus Jr. ROTC attended the program upon invitation

It was profoundly cathartic sharing the room with Lt. Darling on the anniversary of the attacks.  Hearing him talk about growing up in Newburgh, New York - he described his childhood as playing in the neighborhood with friends - like The Sandlot kids - it was apparent that he was a regular all-American kid. In college he was inspired to action after the Beirut Barracks Bombing. Marines, in his opinion, were the most brilliant, driven, greatest people and he aspired to be one of them. 

Our paths are ours for the choosing. There is merit, as exemplified time and again in this and many stories told of Americans and how they got ahead, to the idea that you can be anything you want to be. Set your mind to it! 

The full program will stream on Mount Saint Mary College's Knight Media's video page (coming soon)

Headlining photo by Photo by Lee Ferris/Mount Saint Mary College