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(9:00 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Coast Guard Holds Exercise near President’s Location in Florida, Based on Possible Terrorist Attack

The Coast Guard cutter ‘Joshua Appleby.’The Coast Guard cutter ‘Joshua Appleby.’ [Source: Harry Craft III / US Coast Guard]The US Coast Guard is running a “mass casualty exercise” based around the scenario of an explosion, possibly caused by terrorists, on a cruise ship in Tampa Bay, Florida, which is about 50 miles north of Sarasota, where President Bush is visiting an elementary school this morning. [Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council HazMatters, 10/2001 pdf file; New York Times, 1/13/2002; St. Petersburg Times, 9/8/2002; Local Red Cross News, 9/11/2008] The exercise is being conducted by the Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Office in Tampa, in conjunction with Carnival Cruise Lines, Hillsborough County, and the City of Tampa. [Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council HazMatters, 10/2001 pdf file] The Tampa Bay chapter of the Red Cross and the local fire department are also involved, and more than 100 volunteers are participating. [Local Red Cross News, 9/11/2008; Merrill, 2011, pp. 253]
Exercise Involves 'Possibly Terrorist-Related' Explosion on Ship - The exercise is based on the scenario of an explosion occurring in the engine room of a cruise ship that has 3,500 people on board, just after the ship has passed under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge into Tampa Bay. The explosion is “possibly terrorist-related,” according to Steve McGuire, a Red Cross volunteer who is participating in the exercise. The ship is anchored just south of MacDill Air Force Base, and then a boat, the Coast Guard cutter Joshua Appleby, brings out firefighters and equipment to tackle the fire. Helicopters are used to evacuate the mock casualties from the ship. The casualties are taken away for simulated triage and transportation to area hospitals. The exercise is “a very elaborate drill,” according to McGuire. [Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council HazMatters, 10/2001 pdf file; Local Red Cross News, 9/11/2008]
Exercise Possibly Continues until 10:00 a.m. - As the exercise is about to begin, Janet McGuire, the public affairs and marketing director with the Tampa Bay chapter of the Red Cross, is called by her husband, Bernard McGuire, who tells her a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center. Minutes later, he calls again and tells his wife that a second plane has hit the WTC. She immediately calls the director at her agency’s disaster operations center and requests that the exercise be canceled. Author Will Merrill will later comment, “People might think that Tampa was also under attack if they suddenly saw fire trucks, ambulances, and police cars congregating downtown” because of the exercise. [Tampa Bay Times, 9/13/2006; Merrill, 2011, pp. 253] However, according to Steve McGuire, the exercise continues until “about 9:30 or 10 a.m.” [Local Red Cross News, 9/11/2008] If correct, this would mean it likely continues until after Bush is driven away from the elementary school in Sarasota, at around 9:35 a.m. (see (9:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and is possibly still taking place when Bush takes off from the Sarasota airport on Air Force One, at around 9:55 a.m. (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 9/16/2001; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004]

Entity Tags: Bernard McGuire, US Coast Guard, Steve McGuire, Carnival Cruise Lines, County of Hillsborough (Florida), Janet McGuire, American Red Cross, City of Tampa

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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