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Profile: Bill Balkwill
Bill Balkwill was a participant or observer in the following events:
Charlie Wells. [Source: Publicity photo]Having returned to the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort after his morning jog, President Bush meets for a brief chat in his penthouse suite with Manatee County Sheriff Charlie Wells, Sarasota County Sheriff Bill Balkwill, Sarasota Police Chief Gordon Jolly, and Manatee County Sheriff’s Colonel Ken Pearson. Wells later recalls the president was “totally unsuspecting about what is to happen.… It looked like, to me, he’s saying, ‘Glad to see you, but I’m ready to get on to the school and meet the kids.’” The four law enforcement officials will later travel to the Sarasota school in the president’s motorcade. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 36; Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/10/2002]
Bill Balkwill. [Source: Sarasota County Sheriff's Office]Major Paul Montanus, the military aide with President Bush at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, wants Bush and his entourage to leave the school after he sees the second hijacked plane crashing into the World Trade Center on television, and yet, apparently, no attempt is made to evacuate them at this time.
Military Aide Asked to Be Taken to a TV - Sarasota County Sheriff Bill Balkwill, who is at the school while Bush is there, was approached shortly after 9:00 a.m. by an individual that the Sarasota Herald-Tribune will describe as “a Marine responsible for carrying Bush’s phone.” [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/10/2002; St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004] This person is presumably Montanus, a Marine Corps officer who is the military aide accompanying Bush during his visit to the school. [Marist Magazine, 10/2002; Lompoc Record, 9/11/2011] Montanus will later recall that at the time, he had “heard that a plane had hit the building, but not much more.” “We were trying to think of a reasonable reason” why the crash at the WTC occurred, he will say. [CBS Sports, 8/31/2012] While listening to someone talking to him in his earpiece, Montanus asked Balkwill, “Can you get me to a television?” He explained, “We’re not sure what’s going on, but we need to see a television.” The two men, along with three Secret Service agents and a SWAT team member, then went to a nearby office where there was a television. They turned on the TV in time to see Flight 175 crashing into the WTC, at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Military Aide Says, 'We Gotta Get out of Here' - In response to seeing the crash, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Montanus tells Balkwill, “We’re out of here” and asks, “Can you get everyone ready?” [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/10/2002] Montanus will recall that he says: “What in God’s name? We gotta get out of here.” [CBS Sports, 8/31/2012] However, no evacuation takes place. Instead, Bush is allowed to continue listening to a reading demonstration (see (9:08 a.m.-9:13 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and the president and his entourage will leave the school at around 9:35 a.m., more than 30 minutes after the second crash at the WTC occurred (see (9:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 38-39] The decision to allow Bush to continue listening to the reading demonstration at the current time seems particularly odd considering that, according to the Tampa Tribune, the classroom of Sandra Kay Daniels was selected as the location for the demonstration because it is “situated next to the school’s north door, making it easier to organize elaborate security.” [Tampa Tribune, 9/1/2002]
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