President Bush arrived on the southern tip of Manhattan on Friday afternoon to see for himself the almost unimaginable devastation meted out upon New York’s financial district, when two 767 jetliners slammed into the World Trade Center’s landmark twin towers during Tuesday’s morning rush.
There, he was greeted by a raucous crowd of construction workers and rescue personnel, all of whom seemed recharged by the president’s visit after more than three days of backbreaking work, removing chunks of concrete and mangled steel, and looking for survivors.
Grabbing a bullhorn, Bush told the chanting, cheering crowd, “I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked down these buildings will hear all of us soon.”
“The nation sends its love and compassion to everybody who’s here. Thank you for your hard work. Thank you for making the nation proud, and may God bless America,” Bush added, raising his arm.
The workers responded with an resounding, energetic chant of “USA, USA!”
For me, this remains one of two iconic images of the Bush presidency. The other being him throwing a strike…from the pitcher’s mound…not wearing mom-jeans…at a Yankee’s game soon after 9/11. For all of his policy failings, and his presidency was a graveyard of missed opportunities and half-measures, Bush remains, again for me, one of the very few guys who have held the office in my lifetime that I would say had actual leadership ability and the character and breeding to rise to any occasion. I doubt we’ll see the likes of him again because his character traits are a vanishing commodity.