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On Sept. 11 Anniversary, then-Jacksonville Mayor John Delaney Remembers

9:38 AM, Sep 11, 2011   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The look on then-President Bush's face when his chief of staff told him about the 9/11 attacks is well-known nationwide.

But what was the president doing just hours before the 9/11 attacks?

"It's sort of a Trivial Pursuit question to some extent," said UNF President John Delaney, Jacksonville's mayor on Sept. 11, 2001.

MORE: Sept. 11 section

On Sept. 10, he received a once-in-a-lifetime invitation from  Bush. "He had flown to Jacksonville on some education event, if I remember correctly," Delaney said. "He asked me to fly with him on Air Force One down to Tampa."

That trip, Delaney said, was more than memorable. "You don't put seat belts on when you fly on Air Force One. You don't have to give your cups back when you take off. I can't even describe how big the interior is," he said.

Delaney said he woke up on the morning of 9/11, still impressed with the experience as he read about his adventures in the morning newspaper.

"I'm still in my bathrobe. I have my cup of coffee and my wife comes running in and says, 'John, you have to get in front of the TV.'"

"I just sat there mesmerized for hours until I was reminded there was work to be done at City Hall."

Delaney's then-Chief of Staff Audrey Moran called him to relay concerns Downtown. "At the time, we didn't know where it would end. Should we be worried about bombs?," he said.

As he looks back 10 years later, Delaney watches as his students learn about that day and he wonders what they will take away from 9/11.

"For me as a kid in the 50s and 60s, it was Russia (and) the threat of communism. That framed my thinking about the despots of the world. It will be interesting to see how this shapes the political landscape in the next 20 years."

First Coast News

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