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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]According to Sarasota County Sheriff Bill Balkwill, just after President Bush enters a Booker Elementary classroom, a Marine responsible for carrying Bush’s phone walks up to Balkwill, who is standing in a nearby side room. While listening to someone talk to him in his earpiece, the Marine asks, “Can you get me to a television? We’re not sure what’s going on, but we need to see a television.” Three Secret Service agents, a SWAT member, the Marine, and Balkwill turn on the television in a nearby front office just as Flight 175 crashes into the WTC. “We’re out of here,” the Marine tells Balkwill. “Can you get everyone ready?” [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/10/2002] However, Bush stays at the school for another half-hour. Who makes the decision to stay—and why—remains unclear, and the Secret Service won’t comment on the matter. Philip Melanson, author of a book on the Secret Service, comments, “With an unfolding terrorist attack, the procedure should have been to get the president to the closest secure location as quickly as possible, which clearly is not a school. You’re safer in that presidential limo, which is bombproof and blastproof and bulletproof.… In the presidential limo, the communications system is almost duplicative of the White House—he can do almost anything from there but he can’t do much sitting in a school.” [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004] The decision to allow the president to remain in the classroom seems odder still considering that, according to the Tampa Tribune, the reason that Sandra Kay Daniels’ classroom has been selected for Bush’s photo-op is “not because [it] fulfilled some complicated formula; her classroom merely was situated next to the school’s north door, making it easier to organize elaborate security.” [Tampa Tribune, 9/1/2002]
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