It wasn’t even a drill. It was a photo op.
An Air Force One look-alike and two F-16s circled the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor at mid-morning on April 27, halting work on nearby construction sites and giving thousands of people in downtown Manhattan and New Jersey quite a scare, reported Brian Thompson on NBC News.
“Everybody panicked,” said Daisy Cooper, a Merrill Lynch worker in Jersey City, who lost a nephew on 9/11. “Everybody was screaming and we all ran downstairs. I’m devastated. Everybody was running. We didn’t know why we were running. We just knew it was a plane, there we go, 9/11 again.”
“Thousands” of people in the streets of Jersey City paniced, said Stan Eason of the Jersey City Police Department. Buildings were evacuated because residents were unaware of what was going on, he said, as Jersey City office workers fled their buildings fearing another 9/11 attack. Eason wondered whether any authorities were notified and called the Federal Aviation Administration.
The FAA said there was no reason for alarm, even as thousands of people who saw two fighter jets circle the Statue of Liberty, apparently escorting a wandering – perhaps hijacked – Air Force One, thought the worst.
“They were making two, maybe three passes,” FAA spokesman Jim Peters told NBC’s News 4 New York. “The [Department of Defense] and the FAA worked this all out in advance.” Apparently they forgot to mention it to anyone in New York City, however.
The apparent Air Force One actually was one of two VC-25s used by U.S. presidents, as it turned out. (The Defense Department calls it a VC-25 but to the public it’s a Boeing 747.)
“It’s completely asinine after 9/11 to do that,” summed up Keith Mercantine, who witnessed the panic in Jersey City.
No word on where the photo op pictures will be used.