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Context of 'January 5, 2002: US Teenager Voicing Support for Bin Laden Flies Plane into Bank Tower in Tampa, Florida'

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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

On the evening of September 11, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the military decline to comment on whether fighter jets were launched to intercept any of the hijacked aircraft earlier in the day. Laura Brown, an FAA spokeswoman, refuses to say whether the agency requested military intercepts. Major Barry Venable, a spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), similarly says he does not know whether the FAA asked NORAD to send up jets to intercept the errant aircraft. Lt. Col. Margaret Quenneville, a spokeswoman for the 102nd Fighter Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, which operates from Otis Air National Guard Base at Cape Cod, refuses to comment on whether the fighter wing was requested to intercept the hijacked airliners. [Cape Cod Times, 9/12/2001; Cape Cod Times, 9/12/2001] Several days later, it will be revealed that two F-15s were indeed launched from Otis around the time the first WTC tower was hit, and three F-16s were launched from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia shortly before the time the Pentagon was hit (see September 14, 2001). [CBS News, 9/14/2001; Cape Cod Times, 9/16/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001] But as late as September 15, the New York Times is reporting, “The Federal Aviation Administration has officially refused to discuss its procedures or the sequence of events on Tuesday morning, saying these are part of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s inquiry.” [New York Times, 9/15/2001]

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration, Margaret Quenneville, Barry Venable, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Laura Brown

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Plane’s tail hangs from the Bank of America building in Tampa, Florida.Plane’s tail hangs from the Bank of America building in Tampa, Florida. [Source: Anomalies-Unlimited]Fifteen-year-old Charles J. Bishop, a high school student from Tarpon Springs, Florida, steals a small aircraft. As soon as the plane takes off, the air traffic controllers alert the United States Coast Guard and MacDill Air Force Base. Despite repeated warnings from a helicopter dispatched by the Coast Guard, the small plane continues on until it collides with an office building. The plane crashes between the 23rd and 24th floors of the 42-story Bank of America Tower in Tampa at 5:00 p.m. Before the incident, he is authorized to do a pre-flight check but not to get in an aircraft alone.
Investigation - After the crash, investigators discover that the teen had a troubled past. Officials rule out terrorism although eye witnesses say that the plane makes no apparent attempt to avoid hitting the building. Officials finally suggest that the crash is an apparent suicide. In addition, a note found in the wreckage states that he voices support for Osama bin Laden. However, there is no evidence that the teen has any connection with any terror group. Later authorities confiscate a computer from Bishop’s parents’ house to figure out what motive is involved in the incident. Moments after the incident, President George W. Bush is briefly informed about the incident and two unrelated crashes that same day. In April 2002, transcripts obtained from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reveal new details about the incident, which include how close the small plane came to a Southwest Airlines flight.
Other Consequences - Bishop’s mother files a $70 million dollar lawsuit against Roche Laboratories, who makes an acne medicine called Accutane. According to the lawsuit claim the medicine has side effects such as depression and suicidal actions, which the claim states was the cause of the incident. Also, numerous security measures are taken in response to the incident. The FAA releases a security notice on January 6, the day after the incident. The notice includes security and regulations pertaining to underaged flight students. In addition, the FAA and other similar aircraft organizations propose more security of flight schools and small aircraft. While authorities state that the crash is due to an “abuse of trust” rather than a security breach, others argue for the need of increased security due to the simplicity of such actions. [Anomalies-Unlimited, 7/28/2006]

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration, Charles J. Bishop, US Coast Guard, Osama bin Laden, Bank of America Tower (Tampa), MacDill Air Force Base, George W. Bush, Roche Laboratories

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, US Domestic Terrorism

In a speech to US troops at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, President Bush says: “We will help the Iraqi people to find the benefits and assume the duties of self-government. The form of those institutions will arise from Iraq’s own culture and its own choices.” [US President, 3/31/2003]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Iraq under US Occupation

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