It was supposed to be a photo opportunity, a 747, one of two used as Air Force One, flying over the Statue of Liberty. Trouble is, a combination of secrecy and New York City’s collective muscle memory turned it into a public relations disaster. For about a half hour after the workday began Monday, that plane, escorted by an F-16 fighter, flew frighteningly low over the city. For many, it was a nightmarish reminder of 9-11.
Workers poured out of their office buildings. Some lower Manhattan buildings were completely evacuated. Windows reportedly shook in their frames as the planes passed by. And for what? So someone could take a picture of the 747 flying over the Statue of Liberty? Who in the world gave this exercise the green light?
Worse still, the federal government threw a veil of secrecy around the fly-over. Even Mayor Michael Bloomberg wasn’t told by the one member of his staff that was notified (that hapless employee was reprimanded). The Department of Defense and FAA combined to joined forces to keep New Yorkers in the dark about a giant plane, accompanied by a fighter, flying 1500 feet over their heads. What were they thinking would be a charitable question, and one figures Mayor Bloomberg had a more blunt response once he was informed.
Even President Obama is being described as furious when he found out. No, he wasn’t actually on the plane. Of course, this sort of thing makes it look like the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing in his administration. Fly-overs for photo-ops might not look like the best use of the government’s time, what with the economy and swine flu and all. However, we’re still waiting for an explanation as to why all the cloak and dagger, and why anyone thought this made sense.
In the end, two people ended up falling on their swords. The city official who knew and didn’t tell the mayor is one, the other is the director of the White House military office. Louis Caldera apologized for the whole mess, most likely at the behest of someone in the Obama inner circle.
All that is cold comfort for New Yorkers, especially those who remember a cloudless day almost eight years ago when their city was changed forever.
So you tell me. Does any of this make sense?