New York City dwellers went into shock today. I don’t think they will recover quickly, either.
Everyone from Mayor Bloomberg to construction workers was treated to the sudden and mysterious spectacle of a Boeing 747 circling the Statue of Liberty while being trailed by an F-16 fighter jet.
9/11 Redux, anyone?
People fled from buildings and began running down the same streets they’d taken in September 2001. One man described his experience:
“I work in 30 Hudson, which is the largest building in NJ and is right on the water facing the Statue of Liberty. I ran out of the building after a stampede of people began running out of the building as they saw the jumbo jet being followed by two fighter planes veer sharply towards our building and climb right over it. By the time I got outside, it was coming around for its THIRD pass, and I watched it level off below building height over the water and then once again veer sharply towards the building. Several hundred of us began to run away fearing for our lives before it climbed steeply and flew over our building…
Terrorists? Not this time.
Today was snafu time. Stupidity from the top down and resonating through the various levels of bureaucracy until two pilots on a mission to collect some scenic photo ops ended up scaring the bejeezus out of New York City.
The White House apologized late Monday after the U.S. military – without public warning – buzzed New York City with one of the presidential planes trailed by an F-16 fighter jet.
Flying in as low as 1,000 feet to 1,500 feet above New York City and taking photographs along the way, the planes circled the Statue of Liberty and flew over Manhattan, Staten Island, and New Jersey – then vanished.
“I approved a mission over New York,” Louis Caldera, director of the White House military office, said in a hastily-prepared statement. “I apologize and take responsibility for any distress that flight caused.”
Caldera, however, insisted that “federal authorities took the proper steps to notify state and local authorities in New York and New Jersey.”
Now why does that sound like a weasel-worded non-apology?? Because not even the mayor was told about this snipe hunt for scenic vistas from Air Force One. Not that there were any passengers, mind you.
Mayor Bloomberg put it this way:
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“First thing is I’m annoyed – furious is a better word – that I wasn’t told,” he said. “Why the Defense Department wanted to do a photo op right around the site of the World Trade Center catastrophe defies imagination. Poor judgment would be a nice ways to phrase.”
Bloomberg said federal officials notified the NYPD and another city official, whom he declined to identify, of the flight plan.
“Had I known about it I would have called them right away and asked them not to,” he said. “The good news is it was nothing more than an ill considered, badly conceived, insensitive photo op – with the taxpayers’ money.”
The bad news is that everyone involved appears to be stuck on expensively stupid.
There were lots of last minute prayers as people prepared to die:
“I was crying and praying to God to forgive me my sins because I thought I was going to get killed,” said Kathleen Filandro, who fled from One New York Plaza when she spotted the planes. “We have that big space in the sky where the towers once stood. You can’t just do things like this down here.”
“I didn’t know what was going on,” said Eunice Davis, 41, of Brooklyn, who was evacuated from the New York Mercantile Exchange. “Some planes were circling the building. I was afraid. I was here when the World Trade Center went down.”
“We thought we were under attack again,” added a shaken Wall Street worker, who declined to give his name.
NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne said the department was told of the “aerial photo mission” last Thursday but ordered to stay quiet about it. But they did alert 911 operators at 7 a.m. to tell callers it was an authorized military mission.
It sounds as though it might be a good idea to load the President and his Teleprompters into Air Force One for a flight to New York so he can personally apologize. As Harry Truman famously remarked, “the buck stops here” (at the President’s desk). If he has real political discernment (as opposed to clever campaigning), Mr. Obama will get on the plane, get off in New York, and say “I’m sorry”. Just those two words, without excuses or blaming. Oh, and he could promise them it won’t happen again on his watch.
Anyone want to bet how long it will take him to apologize? This is the man who claimed never to have heard anything about the three hundred or so tea parties around the country. So no doubt he will swear ignorance about this snafu.
Since the bust of Churchill is gone from the Oval Office I have a suggestion for its replacement: a brass replica of those three little monkeys, “Hear No Evil, See No Evil, and Speak No Evil”.
Never mind. He only needs the first two monkeys. Obama has delegated TOTUS for the third monkey’s job.
News reports used in this post: