Atlanta native Sonya Ross talks about being on Air Force One on 9/11

The president's face conveyed that it was a huge deal

"President Bush's face conveyed that it was a huge deal", says Sonya Ross who was traveling aboard Air Force One on September 11, 2001.

On the 20th Anniversary of 9/11 Ross tells Audacy Atlanta's Maria Boynton that she wasn't ready for the words 'terrorist attack'. Yet, that was how President George W. Bush explained what had happened when several planes crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and into a field in Pennsylvania.

Ross was the White House reporter working for the Associated Press. Being in the news business Ross says she knew terrorist attacks to be suicide bombers blowing up buses in Jerusalem or Northern Ireland. Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Ross says "I knew of the Klan, what they could do and had done." September 11th  was quite different in-that "these were operatives from outside of this country who came into this country. It shocked my soul."


It was supposed to be a none newsworthy day says Ross. The President was reading to children in Sarasota, Florida, to be followed by a speech about education. But when White House Chief of Staff Andy Card walked into the classroom and whispered into Bush's ear, Ross says "the president's face just went into absolute shock. He was quiet. He clearly lost his concentration." She later learned that Card was conveying that a second plane had hit the World Trade Center.


Ross retired from AP in 2019, following a 33 year career with the news agency. The history-making journalist has launched Black Women Unmuted, which she describes as a media startup that "reports out untold stories about black women in the U.S.."

A native of Atlanta, Ross graduated from Harper High School. She attended the University of Georgia and Georgia State University.