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Context of '(Between February and August 2001): Senior White House Officials Visit Bunker that Will Be Used on September 11 during Exercise'

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The US Supreme Court issues a ruling in Bush v. Gore (see December 11, 2000) that essentially declares George W. Bush (R-TX) the winner of the Florida presidential election, and thusly the winner of the US presidential election (see Mid-to-Late November 2000). The decision in Bush v. Gore is so complex that the Court orders that it not be used as precedent in future decisions. The 5-4 decision is split along ideological lines, with Justices Sandra Day O’Connor (see After 7:50 p.m. November 7, 2000 and (November 29, 2000)) and Anthony Kennedy, two “moderate conservatives,” casting the deciding votes. In the per curium opinion, the Court finds: “Because it is evident that any recount seeking to meet the Dec. 12 date will be unconstitutional… we reverse the judgment of the Supreme Court of Florida ordering the recount to proceed.… It is obvious that the recount cannot be conducted in compliance with the requirements of equal protection and due process without substantial additional work.” The decision says that the recounts as ordered by the Florida Supreme Court suffer from constitutional problems (see December 7-8, 2000). The opinion states that differing vote-counting standards from county to county and the lack of a single judicial officer to oversee the recount violate the equal-protection clause of the Constitution. The majority opinion effectively precludes Vice President Al Gore from attempting to seek any other recounts on the grounds that a recount could not be completed by December 12, in time to certify a conclusive slate of electors. The Court sends the case back to the Florida Supreme Court “for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.” Four justices issue stinging dissents. Justice John Paul Stevens writes: “One thing… is certain. Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.” Justice Stephen G. Breyer adds that “in this highly politicized matter, the appearance of a split decision runs the risk of undermining the public’s confidence in the court itself.” [Per Curiam (Bush et al v. Gore et al), 12/12/2000; US News and World Report, 12/13/2000; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12/17/2000; Leip, 2008]
Drafting Opinions - After oral arguments concluded the day before, Chief Justice William Rehnquist said that if they were to remand the case back to Florida, that order must go out immediately in light of the approaching deadline for certification of results; Stevens quickly wrote a one-paragraph opinion remanding the case back to Florida and circulated it, though with no real hope that it would be adopted. The five conservative justices are determined to reverse the Florida decision. For the rest of the evening and well into the next day, December 12, the justices work on their opinions. Stevens prepares the main dissent, with the other three liberal justices preparing their own concurrences. Stevens and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg find no support whatsoever for the equal-protection argument, and say so in their writings. Justices Breyer and David Souter give the idea some weight; Souter says that the idea of uniform standards is a good one, but these standards should be created and imposed by the Florida judiciary or legislature. Stopping the recounts solves nothing, he writes. It soon becomes apparent that neither Kennedy nor O’Connor share Rehnquist’s ideas on the jurisdiction of the Florida court, and will not join him in that argument. Kennedy writes the bulk of the majority opinion; as predicted, his opinion focuses primarily on the equal-protection clause of the Constitution. The liberal justices and clerks find Kennedy’s reasoning that stopping the recounts is the only way to ensure equal protection entirely unconvincing. Anthony Scalia circulates a sealed memo complaining about the tone of some of the dissents, asking that the dissenters not call into question the Court’s credibility. (His memo prompts Ginsburg to remove a footnote from her dissent commenting on Florida’s disenfranchised African-American voters; some of the liberal clerks see the incident as Ginsburg being bullied into compliance by Scalia. Subsequent investigations show that thousands of legitimate African-Americans were indeed disenfranchised—see November 7, 2000.) Kennedy sends a memo accusing the dissenters of “trashing the Court,” and says that the dissenters actually agree with his equal-protection argument far more than they want to admit. When he has a line inserted into his opinion reading, “Eight Justices of the Court agree that there are constitutional problems with the recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court that demand a remedy,” some of Stevens’s clerks angrily telephone Kennedy’s clerks and accuse them of misrepresenting Stevens’s position. They demand that the line be removed. Kennedy refuses, and Stevens rewrites his opinion so that he is no longer associated with the position. Kennedy is forced to rewrite the statement to say that “seven,” not “eight” justices agree with his position. One of Stevens’s clerks, Eduardo Penalver, tells Kennedy clerk Grant Dixton that what Kennedy had done was disgusting and unprofessional. Breyer and his clerks are also unhappy about Kennedy’s assertion, but take no action. The line prompts many in the media to claim, falsely, that the decision is a 7-2 split and not a 5-4. The main document, a short unsigned opinion halting the recounts, is written by Kennedy. Two portions are particularly notable: Kennedy’s assertion that the ruling applies only to Bush, and not to future decisions; and that the Court had only reluctantly accepted the case. “That infuriated us,” one liberal clerk later recalls. “It was typical Kennedy bullsh_t, aggrandizing the power of the Court while ostensibly wringing his hands about it.” Rehnquist, Scalia, and Justice Clarence Thomas join the decision, though Scalia is unimpressed with Kennedy’s writing and reasoning. Reportedly, he later calls it a “piece of sh_t,” though he will deny making the characterization.
Lack of Consensus - The lack of consensus between the conservative justices is relatively minor. Among the four liberal justices, though, it is quite pronounced—though all four wish not to end the recounts, only Stevens has a strong position and has stayed with it throughout the process. Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer were far less certain of their opposition, and resultingly, their dissents, unlike the impassioned Stevens dissent, are relatively pallid. Some of the liberal clerks say that the four’s lack of consensus helped the solid conservative majority stay solid: “They gave just enough cover to the five justices and their defenders in the press and academia so that it was impossible to rile up the American people about these five conservative ideologues stealing the election.”
Final Loss - Gore, reading the opinion, finally realizes that he and his campaign never had a chance with the five conservative justices, though they had hoped that either O’Connor or Kennedy would join the four liberals (see (November 29, 2000)). He congratulates his legal team, led by David Boies, and commends it for making it so difficult for the Court to justify its decision. Some reports will circulate that Souter is depressed over the decision, with Newsweek reporting that he later tells a group of Russian judges that the decision was “the most outrageous, indefensible thing” the Court had ever done. He also reportedly says that had he had “one more day,” he could have convinced Kennedy to turn. However, Souter will deny the reports, and those who know him will say that such comments would be out of character for him. For her part, O’Connor will express surprise that anyone could be angry over the decision. As for Scalia, some Court observers believe that his open partisanship during the process will cost him any chance he may have had to be named chief justice. [Vanity Fair, 10/2004]

Entity Tags: David Souter, William Rehnquist, David Boies, Anthony Kennedy, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., Al Gore presidential campaign 2000, US Supreme Court, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Clarence Thomas, George W. Bush presidential campaign 2000, George W. Bush, Florida Supreme Court, John Paul Stevens, Grant Dixton, Sandra Day O’Connor, Eduardo Penalver

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections, Civil Liberties

George W. Bush taking the oath of office.George W. Bush taking the oath of office. [Source: White House/ Wally McNamara]George W. Bush is inaugurated as president, replacing President Bill Clinton. Bush is sworn in after a tumultuous, sharply disputed election that ended with a US Supreme Court decision in his favor (see 9:54 p.m. December 12, 2000). He takes the oath of office on the same Bible his father, George H.W. Bush, used in his own 1989 inauguration; the oath is administered by Chief Justice William Rehnquist. In his brief inaugural address, delivered outside the US Capitol, Bush asks Americans to “a commitment to principle with a concern for civility.… Civility is not a tactic or a sentiment. It is the determined choice of trust over cynicism, of community over chaos.” In words apparently chosen to reflect on the criticisms surrounding former President Clinton and his notorious affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, Bush says, “I will live and lead by these principles—to advance my convictions with civility, to pursue the public interest with courage, to speak for greater justice and compassion, to call for responsibility, and try to live it as well.” He continues addressing the American people, saying: “I ask you to be citizens. Citizens, not spectators. Citizens, not subjects. Responsible citizens, building communities of service and a nation of character.” At a post-ceremonial luncheon, Bush issues a series of executive orders, some designed to block or roll back several Clinton-era regulations. He also acknowledges that because of the election turmoil, many Americans believe “we can’t get anything done… nothing will happen, except for finger-pointing and name-calling and bitterness.” He then says: “I’m here to tell the country that things will get done. Republicans and Democrats will come together to do what’s right for America.” [New York Times, 1/21/2001]
Thousands of Protesters - Thousands of protesters line the streets during Bush’s ceremonial drive to the Capitol, a fact not heavily reported by many press outlets. Salon reports, “Not since Richard Nixon paraded down Pennsylvania Avenue in 1973 has a presidential inauguration drawn so many protesters—and last time, people were out to protest the Vietnam War.” Though Capitol Police refuse to estimate the size of the crowd lining the street, Salon reports that “many thousands of protesters were in evidence.” Liz Butler of the Justice Action Movement, the umbrella organization that helped coordinate the protests, says: “The level of people on the streets shows that people are really upset about lack of democratic process. They took it to the streets. We saw tens of thousands. We saw far more protesting Bush than supporting him.” Some of the people on the streets are Bush supporters, but many more are not, and carry signs such as “Bush Cheated,” “Hail to the Thief,” “Bush—Racism,” “Bushwhacked by the Supremes,” and others. The crowd, though outspoken in its protests and unrestrained in its heckling of Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, is generally peaceful, and no serious violence is reported, though a few minor altercations do take place, and large contingents of police in riot gear—including personnel from every police department in the District of Columbia as well as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and from departments in Maryland and Virginia—are on hand. At least one protester throws an egg at the limousine transporting Bush, Cheney, and their families to the inaugural ceremonies; perhaps in response to the protests, Bush breaks with tradition laid down by earlier presidents and does not walk any large portion of the parade route. Nine people are arrested for disorderly conduct, most for allegedly throwing bottles and other debris. Bulter says: “Of course, we’re ashamed that Bush has decided to be a ‘uniter’ by uniting people against him. They all chose to come out in the freezing rain—even the weather couldn’t stop these people.” Protester Mary Anne Cummings tells a reporter: “I think it’s important to remind the incoming administration the country does not want a right-wing mandate. They did not vote for a right-wing mandate.” [Salon, 1/20/2001; CNN, 1/20/2001; New York Times, 1/21/2001] Thousands of protesters march in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other cities as well. [CNN, 1/20/2001]

The location of the Presidential Emergency Operations Center.The location of the Presidential Emergency Operations Center. [Source: Space Imaging]Joseph Hagin, the White House deputy chief of staff for operations, runs a training exercise for a number of senior White House staffers in which the staffers are made aware of and shown to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), a bunker below the White House where numerous government officials will go on September 11 to respond to the terrorist attacks. Josh Bolten, the White House deputy chief of staff for policy, will later recall that at some time before September 11, “the other deputy chief of staff [i.e. Hagin] had run an exercise for a bunch of us on the senior staff of what happens in a crisis.” In the exercise, the senior staffers find out “who was supposed to go to the bunker [i.e. the PEOC]” in a crisis and they also visit the PEOC. Bolten will not say which staffers, other than him, take part in the exercise. [C-SPAN, 10/6/2013]
Exercise Possibly Held Shortly before 9/11 - He will also not say when the exercise is held, but presumably it takes place sometime after George W. Bush is inaugurated as president, near the end of January this year (see January 20, 2001). [BBC, 1/20/2001; CNN, 1/20/2001] It is possible it takes place just two weeks before 9/11: Mary Matalin, a counselor to Vice President Dick Cheney, will write that “a couple [of] weeks [before September 11], I had visited this underground dungeon [i.e. the PEOC] for my top-level security clearance training.” It is unclear, however, if she is referring to the exercise Bolten describes. [Carville and Matalin, 2014, pp. 140-141]
PEOC Is a 'Nerve Center' on September 11 - It is apparently fortunate that Hagin runs the exercise for the senior White House staffers, since numerous government officials, including Bolten and Matalin, will go to the PEOC on September 11 to respond to the terrorist attacks. [CNN, 9/11/2002; Mother Jones, 5/24/2009] That day, the PEOC will be “the nerve center for America’s response to the unprecedented attacks,” according to the London Telegraph. [Daily Telegraph, 9/10/2011] As a result of the “pretty casual training” that Hagin conducts, Bolten will say, “I did know the bunker and knew where to go” on September 11.
White House Staffers Were Often Unaware of the PEOC - It is also apparently quite unusual for White House staffers to know about the existence of the PEOC. Steve Ricchetti, who served as deputy White House chief of staff during the Clinton administration, will tell Bolten that during the Clinton administration, “it had been in some cases months and years before people were briefed on the existence of [the PEOC]… because nobody ever thought the US itself would be under attack.” The PEOC, Bolten will comment, “was kind of an artifact of the bygone Cold War era and of no particular use to a current White House.” [C-SPAN, 10/6/2013] Its use by government officials on September 11 will in fact be its “first test in an actual emergency,” according to CNN. [CNN, 9/11/2002] “[N]o one alive remembers using it for its intended purpose,” Matalin will write, “which only drew our attention to the fact… that [9/11] was a unique event in our nation’s history.” [Carville and Matalin, 2014, pp. 141]

Entity Tags: Joshua Bolten, Mary Matalin, Joseph W. Hagin, Steve Ricchetti

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Steve Ricchetti.Steve Ricchetti. [Source: C-SPAN]Josh Bolten, the deputy White House chief of staff, receives a phone call from Steve Ricchetti, who served as deputy White House chief of staff during the Clinton administration and who checks whether Bolten is aware of the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), a bunker below the White House where numerous government officials will later convene to respond to the terrorist attacks. With White House chief of staff Andrew Card traveling with President Bush in Florida, Bolten is the acting chief of staff at the White House this morning. He has run the senior staff meeting and, after the meeting ends, returns to his office and sees the coverage of the first crash at the World Trade Center on television. Also, when he gets back to his office, Bolten will later recall, “the phone was ringing on the inside line on a number that I don’t think I’d given out to anybody.” “I probably wasn’t even aware I had an inside line,” Bolten will add. He answers the phone and finds the caller is Ricchetti, who he will describe as “a very nice guy who I didn’t know well,” but who had been “very kind to me in the transition.” Ricchetti asks Bolten, “Are you watching TV?” Bolten says he is and Ricchetti asks, “Do you see what’s going on?” Bolten says, “Yes.” Ricchetti then asks, “Do you know about the bunker?” [C-SPAN, 10/6/2013] He is referring to the PEOC, a bunker under the East Wing of the White House that is protected by vault doors and was designed to withstand the effects of a nuclear blast. [New York Times, 9/16/2001; Associated Press, 10/5/2010; Daily Mail, 10/19/2011] Fortunately, Bolten visited the PEOC during a training exercise and so he knows what it is and where it is located (see (Between February and August 2001)). After the call ends, Bolton will head to the White House Situation Room to see if he can find out more about the crash at the WTC (see (9:03 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Apparently influenced by his conversation with Ricchetti, he will later head to the PEOC and then spend much of the rest of the day there with Vice President Dick Cheney and other government officials (see (Shortly After 9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Ricchetti “did a very graceful thing in calling me and trying to alert me to [the PEOC],” Bolten will comment. [C-SPAN, 10/6/2013]

Entity Tags: Joshua Bolten, Steve Ricchetti

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Josh Bolten.Josh Bolten. [Source: ONE]Josh Bolten, the deputy White House chief of staff, learns of the second plane hitting the World Trade Center and then, according to his own account, goes and tells National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice what has happened. With many of President Bush’s senior staff members, including White House chief of staff Andrew Card, traveling with the president in Florida, Bolten is the acting chief of staff at the White House this morning. He has run the senior staff meeting and, after the meeting ended, noticed the coverage of the first crash at the WTC on the television in his office. He’d thought the crash was a “freak accident,” he will later comment. “But then,” he will say, “the TV pictures kind of made me wonder.” Bolten went down to the White House Situation Room to see if he could learn anything more. The Situation Room, according to Bolten, “is supposed to be the information nerve center of the White House, where they are monitoring all of the TV stations, all the intelligence sources.” It is “where the Defense Department and CIA and everybody funnels in information to the president and to the White House.” After he enters the Situation Room, Bolten learns of Flight 175 hitting the second WTC tower, presumably seeing it live on television at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). “[I]t was at that moment that I realized this is not an accident,” he will recall. Bolten will say that he then heads into the conference area of the Situation Room, where Rice is conducting a meeting with her senior directors. After he enters the room, Rice says, “Here’s Josh Bolten,” and then starts introducing him to her senior directors. Bolten will say he gives Rice “the timeout signal” and asks her to step outside the room with him. He then tells her, “A second plane has hit; this is not an accident, it is an attack.” [C-SPAN, 10/6/2013] Rice, however, will contradict Bolten’s account. In interviews in which she discusses this morning’s events, she will make no mention of Bolten coming into her senior directors’ meeting. She will say she learns a second plane has hit the WTC not from Bolten but from her executive assistant, Tony Crawford, who comes into her meeting and hands her a note that tells her about the crash (see (9:04 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [White House, 10/24/2001; White House, 11/1/2001; BBC Radio 4, 8/1/2002 pdf file; White House, 8/6/2002] Bolten will say that after he tells Rice about the crash, the two of them head upstairs to Vice President Dick Cheney’s office and talk to Cheney there (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [C-SPAN, 10/6/2013]

Entity Tags: Condoleezza Rice, Joshua Bolten

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Dick Cheney heading to the the Presidential Emergency Operations Center.Dick Cheney heading to the the Presidential Emergency Operations Center. [Source: David Bohrer / White House]Vice President Dick Cheney is taken by the Secret Service from his office to an underground tunnel leading to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House around this time, according to some accounts, including the 9/11 Commission Report, although other accounts will suggest he was evacuated from his office about half an hour earlier. [United States Secret Service, 11/17/2001 pdf file; Newsweek, 12/30/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39-40; Hayes, 2007, pp. 333, 335] Cheney, who is in his office in the West Wing of the White House, is aware of the two plane crashes in New York and realizes this is a terrorist attack. He is now “watching developments on the television,” he will later recall, and starting “to get organized to figure out what to do.” [Meet the Press, 9/16/2001; Hayes, 2007, pp. 330-331] The Secret Service was informed that an unidentified aircraft was heading toward the White House at around 9:33 a.m. (see (9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Concern about this aircraft prompted it to order the evacuation of Cheney “just before 9:36,” according to the 9/11 Commission Report (see (9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39]
Armed Agents Enter Cheney's Office - Four or five Secret Service agents carrying submachine guns therefore enter Cheney’s office, according to Washington Post reporter Barton Gellman. One of them, Special Agent James Scott, pushes through the group of government officials who are gathered around Cheney (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and tells the vice president, “Sir, we need to move you—now.” Cheney nods, indicating that he will respond to the agent in a moment, and then turns to say something to another person. But Scott brings down the flat of his hand sharply on Cheney’s desk and commands, ”Now![Gellman, 2008, pp. 114-115]
Cheney Propelled out of His Office - Scott then puts his hand on Cheney’s shoulder, grabs the vice president by the back of his belt, and moves him out the door. [Hayes, 2007, pp. 333] Cheney will comment that Secret Service agents “practice this, I’m sure, because… whether you wanted to move or not, you’re going. They don’t exactly pick you up and carry you. It’s more like they propel you forward.” [White House, 11/19/2001] As the Secret Service agents take Cheney through his outer office, the vice president manages to grab the latest issue of The Economist off a table. “I’m always carrying something in case I get hung up someplace,” he will explain. “I’ve got to have something to read.” [Newsweek, 12/30/2001; Hayes, 2007, pp. 333] Carrying the magazine but nothing more, Cheney is hurried down the hallway, past the Oval Office, and down into the basement of the White House. [White House, 11/19/2001]
Other Officials Left in Cheney's Office - The officials who were with Cheney are left in his office. Mary Matalin, one of Cheney’s senior advisers, will recall: “[S]peechwriter John McConnell and I were left behind in his office, staring at each other as if to say, ‘What are we, chopped liver?’ I think I actually said that.” [National Review, 9/8/2011] Cheney will arrive in the underground tunnel leading to the PEOC about a minute after he leaves his office (see (9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). There he will learn that the Pentagon has been hit and talk over the phone with the president (see (9:45 a.m.-9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001) before heading into the PEOC (see (9:58 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 40; Hayes, 2007, pp. 335-336] However, according to some accounts, Cheney was evacuated from his office a significant time earlier on, around 9:03 a.m., when the second plane crashed in New York (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 9/13/2001; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; ABC News, 9/14/2002; Clarke, 2004, pp. 1-2]

Entity Tags: John McConnell, Mary Matalin, James Scott, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, US Secret Service

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Josh Bolten, the acting White House chief of staff, heads to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), a bunker below the White House, after seeing Vice President Dick Cheney taken there by his Secret Service agents. Although Bolten is the deputy White House chief of staff, because White House chief of staff Andrew Card is traveling with President Bush in Florida, he is the acting chief of staff at the White House this morning. He was with Cheney when Secret Service agents entered Cheney’s office and then hurried the vice president away to the PEOC (see (9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, no one evacuated Bolten from the office. “You know, deputy chief of staff, you don’t have a Secret Service detail… nobody was watching out for me,” he will later comment. Fortunately, Bolten learned where the PEOC is located and that he was supposed to go there in a crisis during a training exercise (see (Between February and August 2001)). Furthermore, he was reminded of the existence of the PEOC by Steve Ricchetti, who served as deputy White House chief of staff during the Clinton administration, when Ricchetti phoned him earlier this morning (see (Between 8:50 a.m. and 9:02 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Therefore, at some time after Cheney is evacuated from his office, Bolten makes his way down to the PEOC. [C-SPAN, 10/6/2013] The time at which he arrives there is unclear. According to notes taken by I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Cheney’s chief of staff, Bolten is in the PEOC at approximately 10:00 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 4/5/2004] He will spend much of the rest of the day there with Cheney and other government officials. [CNN, 9/11/2002; C-SPAN, 10/6/2013] The PEOC, according to the London Telegraph, will become “the nerve center for America’s response to the unprecedented attacks.” [Daily Telegraph, 9/10/2011]

Entity Tags: Joshua Bolten, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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