Robert Darling
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Robert Darling

Allendale, Michigan, United States

Allendale, Michigan, United States
Band Comedy


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The best kept secret in music


"A Morning Unlike Any Other"

Marine Major Robert J. Darling sat glued to the TV monitor in his office at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. He was incredulous. An aircraft had just plowed into the World Trade Center’s South Tower and exploded in a gigantic ball of flaming gasoline. He heard someone exclaim, “My God, did you see that? I can’t believe it!” Someone else yelled, “There’s a full-blown terrorist attack right before our eyes in New York City.”

In minutes, Darling heard the intercom system blast, “Evacuate the White House complex! All personnel are to evacuate the White House complex immediately.” But Darling could not leave his post as the airlift operations officer responsible for the logistical support for the President of the United States, who was traveling and would certainly need him in this crisis.

As the White House and Eisenhower Executive Office Building were evacuated, Darling headed underground toward the President’s Emergency Operations Center, known as the “PEOC.” This is his story of “a morning unlike any other.”

As a Marine Corps officer assigned to the White House Airlift Operations department, I was an integral part of the logistics arm of the White House Military Office (WHMO). Our mission was to support the safe and timely travel of the President, Vice President, first family and other designated VIPs who work in direct support of the White House by prepositioning helicopters, secure phones, Secret Service vehicles and other special equipment, utilizing the heavy-lift assets of the Department of Defense. Essentially, I was a glorified travel agent, and I loved every minute of it.

On Sept. 11, 2001, my alarm went off at 5:20 a.m. and then again at 5:30 a.m. After forcing myself out of bed, I picked out a clean suit and got dressed. Military personnel assigned to the White House wear business attire to work rather than military uniforms, so that it is less like a military base and more like the home of the first family.

On Wednesdays we were permitted to wear our military service uniforms. For Marines, that usually meant wearing the “Charlie” uniform—the green trousers and tan short-sleeved shirt. In the winter months, we switched to a long-sleeved tan shirt with a tie, called the Bravo uniform. The reason why we were permitted to wear our uniforms on Wednesday was a mystery, but it was a welcome opportunity to display ourselves as the fighting men and women of America’s Armed Forces, proud to serve both our country and our President.

By 6 a.m., I was dressed and into my car, heading to Washington and the White House from my home in Stafford, Va., a suburb about 30 miles to the south.

My first stop was the “slug line.” What other cities call “ride sharing” and “carpooling” is known in Washington, D.C./the Virginia suburbs as “slugging,” an informal, self-monitoring system that is free and not only moves thousands of commuters to work every day, but does so faster than the bus, Metro or train systems.

In no time at all, I had the two passengers I needed to be able to drive in the High Occupancy Vehicle lanes. They were both female civilians who worked at the Pentagon. They hopped into my car, greeted me with a grateful “hello,” and we were off.

As soon as I heard the click of their seat belts, I turned up the volume on my radio, pulled out of the commuter lot and joined the madness on Interstate 95 North. One of my passengers read her newspaper; the other stared out the window, probably pondering the day ahead.

My day was supposed to be fairly straight-forward and ordinary. President George W. Bush was at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Fla., on a trip designed to spotlight education and reading, and all I had left to do was make sure the Air Mobility Command had everything in place to bring the presidential gear home the moment the President was safely aboard Air Force One on his way back to Washington that afternoon.

I exited the highway near the Pentagon, which is a city unto itself. On any given morning, literally thousands of people head toward the building on foot from the enormous parking lots that surround it. They come by car, by subway or by public transportation, and they represent all walks of life and many different levels of responsibility. As a member of the military family, I always thought of them as unified by their mission: to defend America.

7:20 a.m.
I pulled over to let my passengers out, told them both to have a nice day and carefully made my way out of the parking lot.

I crossed over the Memorial Bridge and then, a few blocks later, parked along the Ellipse, the much-photographed park between the Washington Monument and the White House. I walked to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, otherwise known around town as the EEOB. It is the only building on the west side of the White House campus.

I passed through security and made my way to the Airlift Operations Office on the fourth floor.

8:10 a.m.
We all gather - Leatherneck

"9/11 Memorial Service a Somber Occasion for Iona College"

The Murphy Auditorium at has seen many events marking joyous occasions over the years, but Friday afternoon, the focus was on the 15 Iona alumni who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001, as their family and friends gathered to mark yet another year of their passing.

The memorial service featured a 30-minute video tribute, produced in 2002, featuring the individual life stories of all 15 alumni who died 10 years ago, five of whom were members of the New York City Fire Department.

As the lights came back on after the touching video tribute, a procession commenced out of the auditorium and across the street to the 9/11 Memorial Garden, where all of the victims names are engraved on a plaque. That was where loved ones could take comfort once again in the company of others who had experienced similar grief.

“I have seen tears in many students’ eyes this week,” said Dr. Joseph Nyre, Iona's president. “I hope this day for our current students brings together the nexus of faith, grief and intellectual dialogue in understanding an event that took place when they were just children.”

Dr. Carl Procario-Foley also spoke to the audience. “Our loved ones who are lost, may their memory be a blessing to us,” he said.

Members of eight families who lost a loved one on 9/11 were present during the memorial service. It could easily be discerned that, despite the passing of time, the emotional scars left in the wake of the attacks are still very much on the surface.

With both men and women weeping silently, the video tribute that was shown served as a haunting and poetic reminder of lives that were cut short and opened a small window into the individual lives of the people who were lost that fateful morning.

Iona Alumnus shares his unique experience of 9/11

Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Robert Darling, an Iona alumnus of the class of 1987, shared his book 24 Hours Inside the President’s Bunker, with audience members Friday in the Romita Auditorium for a discussion on his own unique experience during 9/11.

Darling gave readers an eyewitness account of the important role he served as liaison between Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Advisory Condoleezza Rice and the Pentagon during the attacks. He spent a 24-hour period inside the presidential bunker during the day's chaos.

“Writing the book was therapeutic,” Darling said, “and as I saw how more and more people appreciated hearing my account of the days events, and what was going on from a government perspective, it really prompted me to write my account down so that others can learn, my kids can learn and to have the historic record.”

Published in 2010, the book shares his experience playing an incredible role as he and other government officials attempted to respond to the crisis. Darling said that in 2011 we are much better prepared to handle whatever may come our way.

“Across the board, from homeland security to local agencies, there is much greater communication and vigilance, but with that has also come a different world that our children now live in,” he said.

For more information on Darling’s book 24 Hours Inside the President’s Bunker, go to or Darling’s Web site. - New Rochelle Patch

"Retired White House staffer: 9/11 fight persists"

An estimated 3,000 deaths were tallied at the end of the day, 9/11/2001.

There was no question who was behind it. Intelligence sources twice briefed President George W. Bush about it. That night, the United States was at war with al-Qaida.

The Pentagon issued a news release Wednesday, 11 years later, quoting an official saying that al-Qaida has been crushed. The U.S. has not experienced a large-scale terrorist attack since 9/11.

But one man in the president's bunker on 9/11 said the fight is not over.

Now-retired Lt. Col. Robert J. Darling was with Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice while an airplane flew over the White House to crash into the Pentagon and spoke with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to explain why the president had authorized an increase in the nation's defense readiness.

"There is still Hamas, Hezbollah and other spin-off groups that al-Qaida can morph into," Darling said Thursday in an interview prior to his presentation on 9/11 at Penn State Altoona.

Darling's daily job as the Marine Corps representative to the White House Military Office was solely to coordinate the transport of presidential equipment: Secret Service vehicles, phones with connection to the White House and naval fleets traveling under Air Force One, in advance of the president.

That was his job on 9/11 when Bush, pushing his education campaign in Florida, was told a second plane struck the south tower of the World Trade Center in New York.

Darling was the link between the Situation Room and Vice President Dick Cheney during 9/11.

He was the one person not to evacuate the White House at 9:45 a.m just after a plane had struck the Pentagon. Instead, he worked from the president's bunker, the exact location of which is the only thing Darling won't talk about from that day.

He said his goal was to urge people to appreciate the desperate decisions Bush and Cheney made on 9/11, and to inspire students to engineer quick-acting vaccines and technology that will protect future generations of Americans.

During a discussion after Darling's presentation, one audience member said he was on the verge of tears when he learned of Cheney's decision to authorize Flight 93, hijacked and headed south of Pittsburgh to Washington, to be shot down.

"I don't think I would have been able to do it," he said.

Cheney made that decision because communication was dropped between Bush, who was leading the country from Air Force One, and the Secretary of Defense. That lapse of communication must never happen again, Darling said. But in that case, orders from Cheney were valid.

Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, not because of Cheney's orders to shoot it down, but because those on board formulated a plan and rolled the plane upside down.

"If that isn't heroism, then I don't know what is. ... I tell this story so that we don't forget that our leaders were willing to take American lives to save American lives. I don't ever want to see that happen again," Darling said.

© Copyright 2013 The Altoona Mirror. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. - Altoona Mirror

"Speaker shares 9-11-01 first-hand experiences"

STARKVILLE, Miss.--On Sept. 11, 2001, four United States commercial planes were hijacked by terrorists and thousands died.

The president, vice president, secretary of state and other national officials mobilized. One military official who watched as the national response unfolded in Washington, D.C., spoke to a Mississippi State University crowd Thursday evening to explain what happened on 9/11 and confirm that freedom in the United States is worth the price paid.

Retired Lt. Col. Robert J. Darling presented "24 Hours Inside the President's Bunker: 9-11-01," also the name of his recently published memoir, as part of the university's observance of Veterans Day, Nov. 11.

He gave a minute-by-minute account of his experiences, beginning with the shock and disbelief he, like so many other Americans, experienced when he saw the second airplane careen into the north tower of the World Trade Center.

"It was at that very moment, there was no doubt in our minds, inside the Eisenhower Building (in the White House), that we had a full-blown terrorist attack unfolding right before our eyes in the city of New York," Darling said.

Amid evacuations, flight cancellations and reports of explosions, people in the White House were doing all they could to protect Americans and destroy the enemy, he explained.

Vice President Dick Cheney, who was in the White House that morning, while President George W. Bush was visiting a Florida classroom, did everything possible to ensure no more attacks occurred. When an unidentified plane was reported to be heading toward Washington, Cheney ordered two F15s to stand by and shoot it down.

"I was still holding on to the (phone) receiver when I had to turn and look at him and said, 'This guy is no politician; this guy right here is a warrior,'" Darling said. "He didn't just say, 'Get me an aircraft,' he said, 'Get me an F15.'"

Only two people can order lethal action in the United States, Darling emphasized: the president and the secretary of defense. However, Cheney ordered the F15s to engage Flight 93 at first opportunity and minutes later, the radio reported the aircraft was indeed down.

"The F15s never fired," Darling stressed. "A free fall in history where we thought the United States Air Force, on orders of the vice president, just took lethal action against a civilian airline, but, you know what? It was the Todd Beamers of the world -- it was the passengers.

"And I always ask everybody: Try to put yourself on that airplane with 44 other people, and you've got a terrorist running up and down the aisles. Some people want to do nothing to agitate them. Others want to do something….You have to overcome that fear, be the politician and convince the other passengers on board the right thing to do and then, ultimately, storm the cockpit."

Darling remembered Bush's speech he gave the night of 9/11, and emphasized how Bush's concern was always the people first: Were they receiving help? What resources could be mobilized? How long would they take to arrive?

Even with his concern for ordinary citizens, though, Bush did all he could to prepare the military for a battle against radical terrorism that has lasted these more than 11 years since 9/11.

"We absolutely must finish this job. Freedom in America will always be worth the price," Darling emphasized.

He thanked the MSU students who attended, especially the ROTC members who attended in full uniform.

"Veterans Day -- a day that we celebrate, thank and honor every man and woman who have served in our armed forces, and the sacrifices continue today … We're a country of 303 million people, and yet 2.3 million people serve in the armed forces. Less than 1 percent protect the 99 percent of us," Darling said.

"So, hat's off: Never miss the opportunity to thank a vet when you see one."

Darling donated part of his speaker fee to MSU's G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery Center for America's Veterans, and his appearance was organized by the MSU Student Affairs Activity Center and the university.

The center will feature more than a week of Veterans Day activities, culminating with an annual patriotic halftime show Nov. 17 when the Bulldogs host Arkansas.

For more information on Veterans Day activities at MSU or veterans services information, contact Ronnie White, assistant director of the center, at 662-325-6825. - Mississippi State University Publication





"24 Hours Inside the President's Bunker"

Lieutenant Colonel Darling retired from the Marine Corps after twenty years of service. He served as an attack helicopter pilot, presidential pilot and airlift operations officer supporting the White House on 9/11/01. He is the author of 24 Hours Inside the Presidents Bunker, 9/11/01, and CEO of Quantitative Analytics, LLC.

Long Bio:

In October 2007, Lieutenant Colonel Darling retired from the United States Marine Corps with just over twenty years of active duty service. He flew attack helicopters in Desert Shield and Desert Storm during the first Gulf War and in Somalia, Africa, in support of Operation Restore Hope. In June 1998, he was selected to fly as a presidential pilot with Marine Helicopter Squadron One and in October 2000, he was handpicked to work for the White House Military Office, Airlift Operations Department. It was in that capacity that Lt. Col. Darling supported the President, Vice President and National Security Advisor in the President's Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) on September 11, 2001. In May 2002, he attended the Naval Postgraduate School where he earned his MBA in Financial Management and subsequently served as a Program Manager for the Chief of Naval Operations supporting the Department of the Navy Flying Hour Program.

As a public speaker on crisis leadership and decision making, Bob has addressed numerous academic, government, and military organizations to include Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and as a guest lecturer on the subject of Crisis Leadership and Counterterrorism at the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia.

Bob is the author of “24 Hours Inside the President’s Bunker, 9/11/01: The White House and the President and CEO of Quantitative Analytics, LLC, an aviation operations and logistics services company located in Stafford, Virginia.


-To let the audience know what our leaders knew, when they knew it, and what actions they took to defend us that day.
-That our enemies are ruthless and persistent and we must not tire to protect and defend our freedom.

-That the greatest generation our country has ever seen is the one bearing the weight of the struggle before us right now.

-And that we all play a vital and important role in the security of our nation whether we are students debating the future course and direction of our nation, an employees supporting the families of our military and first responders or simply an American who's proud of what our Country represents and the good we promote in the world.