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Context of '(9:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001: President Bush Leaves Booker Elementary School for Sarasota Airport, Initially Heading in Wrong Direction; Possible Threat En Route'

This is a scalable context timeline. It contains events related to the event (9:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001: President Bush Leaves Booker Elementary School for Sarasota Airport, Initially Heading in Wrong Direction; Possible Threat En Route. You can narrow or broaden the context of this timeline by adjusting the zoom level. The lower the scale, the more relevant the items on average will be, while the higher the scale, the less relevant the items, on average, will be.

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

Bush’s motorcade on its way to the Sarasota airport.Bush’s motorcade on its way to the Sarasota airport. [Source: CBC]President Bush’s motorcade leaves Booker Elementary School bound for Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. It initially heads off in the wrong direction, though, and has to perform a U-turn in order to proceed toward the airport. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Washington Times, 10/8/2002; Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006] A few days after 9/11, Sarasota’s main newspaper reports: “Sarasota barely skirted its own disaster. As it turns out, terrorists targeted the president and Air Force One on Tuesday, maybe even while they were on the ground in Sarasota and certainly not long after. The Secret Service learned of the threat just minutes after Bush left Booker Elementary.” [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/16/2001] Kevin Down, a Sarasota police officer at the scene, recalls, “I thought they were actually anticipating a terrorist attack on the president while we were en route.” [BBC, 8/30/2002] ABC News reporter Ann Compton, who is part of the motorcade, recalls, “It was a mad-dash motorcade out to the airport.” [BBC, 9/1/2002]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Kevin Down, Ann Compton, Andrew Card, US Secret Service

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

White House chief of staff Andrew Card, according to his own later recollections, learns that a threat has been made against Air Force One while he is traveling with President Bush to the airport in Sarasota, Florida, although other accounts will indicate that Bush and his entourage are first alerted to the threat at around 10:30 a.m. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 106-107; White House, 8/12/2002; White House, 8/16/2002; White House, 8/16/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554] Card is traveling with Bush in the presidential limousine to Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, where Air Force One is waiting, after leaving the Emma E. Booker Elementary School (see (9:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [St. Petersburg Times, 9/8/2002; St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004] Card will later recall that he and Bush are “both on the phones,” calling Washington, DC, to try and learn more about the terrorist attacks. He will say that as well as learning about the attack on the Pentagon (see (Between 9:38 a.m. and 9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001), “we also heard that there had been a threat” to Air Force One. “The Secret Service had indicated to us that someone had used the code name for Air Force One and had indicated that it might be a target,” Card will recall. He will say his goal, therefore, is “to get [Bush] to Air Force One as quickly as possible and get Air Force One in the air.” [White House, 8/16/2002; White House, 8/16/2002] Apparently contradicting Card’s claim, most accounts will indicate that Bush and his entourage are first informed that a threat has been made against Air Force One at around 10:30 a.m. (see (10:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 106-107; Woodward, 2002, pp. 18; CBS News, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554; Fleischer, 2005, pp. 141-142] But Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Herman, a senior presidential communications officer who is in Sarasota with Bush, will support Card’s account. He will say that around the time the president’s motorcade is leaving the school, “There was some question… that Air Force One and the president were a target.” [Marist Magazine, 10/2002]

Entity Tags: Andrew Card, Thomas Herman, George W. Bush, US Secret Service

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

While his motorcade is traveling from the Booker Elementary School to the Sarasota airport, President Bush learns about the attack on the Pentagon. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39; Fleischer, 2005, pp. 141] How exactly Bush learns of it is unclear, as he is reportedly experiencing serious communications problems during this journey, being unable to contact his staff at the White House (see (9:34 a.m.-11:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006] His chief of staff Andrew Card is also in the presidential limousine. [St. Petersburg Times, 9/8/2002] Card will later recall, “As we were heading to Air Force One, we did hear about the Pentagon attack, and we also learned what turned out to be a mistake, but we learned that the Air Force One package could in fact be a target.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002]

Entity Tags: Andrew Card, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Air Force One departs Sarasota.Air Force One departs Sarasota. [Source: Associated Press]Air Force One takes off from off from Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport in Florida with President Bush on board. [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Washington Post, 1/27/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39] The plane takes off without any fighter jets protecting it. “The object seemed to be simply to get the president airborne and out of the way,” an administration official will later say. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001] There are still 3,520 planes in the air over the US. [USA Today, 8/13/2002] About half of the planes in the Florida region where Bush’s plane is are still airborne. [St. Petersburg Times, 9/7/2002] Apparently, fighters don’t meet up with Air Force One until over an hour and a half later (see (11:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will claim to have heard at around 9:50 a.m. from the White House bunker containing Vice President Dick Cheney that a fighter escort had been authorized. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 8-9]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Vice President Dick Cheney phones President Bush and tells him the White House has received a credible threat against Air Force One. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 106-107; Woodward, 2002, pp. 18; CBS News, 9/11/2002] The White House has just received an anonymous phone call in which the caller said the president’s plane would be the next terrorist target (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Woodward, 2002, pp. 18; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554] The caller referred to the plane as “Angel,” which is the Secret Service’s code name for Air Force One. [Fleischer, 2005, pp. 141-142] Details of the call were passed on to government officials, including Cheney, in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House. [White House, 11/19/2001; Newsweek, 12/30/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554]
Cheney Tells Bush about 'Credible' Threat - Cheney now tells Bush: “We’re getting reports of a threat against you. It appears credible,” Major Robert Darling of the White House Military Office, who is with Cheney in the PEOC, will later recall. Cheney says, “We’re scrambling fighter escorts and the Secret Service is taking internal precautions on board Air Force One.” [Darling, 2010, pp. 61] Bush turns to Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gould, his military aide, and passes on the news, saying, “A call came into the White House switchboard saying, ‘Angel is next.’” Bush then continues talking with Cheney and says, “We’re at war, Dick, and we’re going to find out who did this and we’re going to kick their ass.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 107; Fleischer, 2005, pp. 141-142]
Pilot Told of Threat and Asks for Guard at Cockpit Door - Colonel Mark Tillman, the pilot of Air Force One, is told about the threat. [CBS News, 9/11/2002] Noting that “Angel” is “a classified call sign of Air Force One,” Tillman will comment that “the only people that knew that call sign was us, [the] Secret Service, and the staff.” Therefore, he will say, “for somebody [to] call into the White House and say that Angel was next, that was just incredible.” [US Air Force, 2/29/2012 pdf file] “It was serious before that, but now… no longer is it a time to get the president home,” Tillman will comment. “We actually have to consider everything we say. Everything we do could be intercepted and we have to make sure that no one knows what our position is.” Tillman asks to have an armed guard at his cockpit door. Secret Service agents double-check the identity of everyone on the plane, while the crew reviews the emergency evacuation plan. [CBS News, 9/11/2002]
Threat Influences Decision to Fly to Nebraska - White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who is on Air Force One with Bush, will say the threat against the president’s plane is what leads to the decision to take Bush to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska (see 2:50 p.m. September 11, 2001) and is also one of the reasons why Bush does not head back to Washington, DC, right away. [White House, 9/12/2001] However, during the afternoon, the Secret Service will determine that the reported threat was unfounded. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554] Shortly after Bush learns about the threat, Tillman will be informed that an aircraft that may have been hijacked is heading toward Air Force One (see (10:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [CBS News, 9/11/2002; CBS News, 1/17/2009] White House chief of staff Andrew Card will say he in fact learned a threat had been made against Air Force One almost an hour earlier, while he was being driven with Bush to Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (see (Between 9:35 a.m. and 9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [White House, 8/12/2002; White House, 8/16/2002; White House, 8/16/2002]

Entity Tags: Mark Tillman, Ari Fleischer, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, George W. Bush, Robert J. Darling, US Secret Service, Thomas Gould

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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