News of the terrorist attacks on The World Trade Center and the Pentagon reached Secretary of State Colin Powell during a breakfast meeting with Peru's President, Alejandro Toledo, at the Presidential Palace in Lima.
Craig Kelly, a senior aide to Powell, handed him a note about 15 minutes after the first tower of the World Trade Center was hit. "Oh my God, this is terrible news," Powell said to those at the breakfast, according to Richard Boucher, the State Department spokesman who was at the breakfast meeting.
Almost immediately, Powell decided to head back to Washington, cutting short his attendance at an Organization of American States meeting in Lima and canceling a planned stop in Bogota, Colombia.
While his plane was being readied for departure, Secretary Powell spoke to the OAS gathering, saying that "a terrible, terrible tragedy had befallen my nation." After receiving condolences from his colleagues -- some embraced him with hugs -- Powell's motorcade headed for the airport, weaving its way through Lima's chaotic traffic.
On board the flight back to Andrews Air Force Base, Powell talked several times with Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage, who remained at his desk in the State Department, although most other employees had been evacuated.
Powell also talked with the National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice.
Powell told reporters traveling with him that "we all feel a deep sense of loss, a deep sense of sadness and outrage at what happened in the United States today."
Powell's plane arrived at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington shortly after 7 p.m. ET and headed for his office in the State Department. Later he was to attend a National Security Council meeting at the White House.
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