President Bush touched down in Sarasota, Florida, Monday evening. He’d spent the afternoon in Jacksonville and visited an elementary school, where he promoted his No Child Left Behind initiative. He planned to visit another school the next day.
David Morris, chief White House correspondent for Bloomberg News, had been traveling with the President all day. There were protestors in Sarasota along President Bush’s motorcade route. Morris knew that wasn’t unusual. To some Floridians, Bush was still “the accidental President.”
Morris decided to join a group of reporters for dinner and was talking with Ann Compton of ABC News when Ari Fleischer, the White House press secretary, pulled him aside. The President was planning to go running the next morning and wanted Morris’s Bloomberg colleague, Dick Keil, to join him. Morris passed the message along to Keil and continued with his dinner.
Tuesday would be a slow news day, Morris figured. Just another education event. But maybe it wasn’t such a great morning for a run. Sarasota was experiencing a red tide, a phenomenon in which blooms of poison-producing algae appear off the shore and change the color of the water. Morris thought the entire area reeked of fish.
Back on Capitol Hill, Charles Wood, a bomb technician and trainer with the US Capitol Police, was finishing his lesson plan for a field trip on the 11th. Wood was taking two dozen new recruits, almost all in their early twenties, down to the Capitol Police’s explosives-testing range in Quantico. Everything the rookies knew about bombs they’d seen in the movies and on television. Wood wanted them to feel the heat and the blast pressure from a real explosive device and to learn to respect the damage that someone could cause with a simple homemade bomb.
Wood trained the recruits to be ready for all manner of threats but to keep an especially sharp eye out for VBEDs—vehicle-borne explosive devices. Fertilizer-based bombs had been planted in vehicles for the 1993 World Trade Center attack and the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Capitol Police were especially concerned about car bombings of public buildings. There were few more enticing targets for terrorists than the US Capitol, Wood told the recruits.
That’s how Andy Maybo had been trained. A 25-year-old officer, he was assigned to patrol office buildings for the House of Representatives. But right now, the big problem for Hill police wasn’t bomb threats. There had been a rash of bicycle thefts over the summer. Officers were routinely summoned to investigate stolen office equipment and personal property.
Maybo had always wanted to be a law-enforcement officer. He’d grown up in Parsippany, New Jersey. His dad had season tickets to the New York Giants. Maybo liked living in Washington because it was only a few hours from New Jersey and a job with the Capitol Police guaranteed he’d never be transferred farther away from home. He still had close friends there, including some who worked for the New York City Fire Department.
On September 10, Maybo was scheduled to work the 3 to 11 PM shift, but he asked for the night off. That evening, he got together with friends in Arlington to watch the Giants play the Broncos in the Monday Night Football game. The Giants lost.
On The NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw,the economy led the broadcast. Reporter David Gregory, traveling with the President in Florida, said Bush had wanted “to talk about education, but his advisers know, with the economy in a tailspin, Mr. Bush’s initiatives on this and other issues are drowned out.”
Also in the news, Almon Glenn Braswell, the “herbal-supplements king” who spent time in prison for marketing phony baldness cures and who was later pardoned by President Clinton, had appeared before a congressional hearing investigating anti-aging products and took the Fifth Amendment. And a study on child exploitation had found that more children were being forced into prostitution and the pornography business than previously known. The study warned that the Internet posed a rising threat; millions of children were being exposed to unwanted sexual materials online.
NBC also ran a tribute to a Boeing 707, tail number SAM 27000, that had flown 1.3 million miles in service to seven Presidents, who called the plane Air Force One when they were aboard. The plane had made its final flight—without President Bush—before being moved to a hangar in San Bernardino, California, and eventually to the Ronald Reagan library. In 1974, Richard Nixon had flown the plane to California after he resigned. In mid-flight, the plane’s call sign changed from Air Force One back to SAM 27000 when Gerald Ford took the oath of office. Nixon asked the flight attendant to bring him a martini.
Brokaw signed off from New York: “I’ll see you back here tomorrow night.”
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