Sarasota County played a pivotal role in 9/11 - WNCN: News, Weather

Sarasota County played a pivotal role in 9/11

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PHILADELPHIA, PA (WFLA) -

On the twelfth anniversaryof the September 11th attacks, many of us have probably spent a momentreflecting on where we were that day.

And Sarasota county played a pivotal role inthat moment in history.

Across Sarasota look up, and you can see flagsat half staff, bestowing honor to those lost on this tragic anniversary.

But if you look back, thiscounty was host to key moments on that horrific day.

While history unfolded ontelevision, President Bush arrived at Emma E. Booker elementary in Sarasota. ColonelSteve Burns was there. He was a Sheriff's lieutenant providing security and he couldn'thelp but notice the busyness of the white house press corps.

Burns said, "As theywere disembarking form the vans I could hear them chattering all on their cellphones, you could tell they were kind of excited, there were mentions a plane hadhit the World Trade Center."

He said, "Myselfand a Secret Service supervisor were just mining that it was obviously aprivate, small aircraft. Probably somebody had a medical malady crash into the buildingand that's a shame, but it wasn't a real big thing."

Once the truth came outand everything changed.

"It became prettychaotic there for a little while."

After President Bush gavea speech and left, Burns was assigned to protect the Secretary of Education.Burns said the Secretary was included in the presidential line of successionand had secret service detail. So they went to a nearby airport and had toremain there for a while since everything was on lock down.

Burns said, "The [president's]itinerary was known at least for several days prior to his visit to Sarasota,so it was a real concern that maybe there was additional targets, even beingthe school or something."

But before that day, theterrorists had spent time in Sarasota County.

Mohammed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi were two of the small group of terrorists who hijacked planes on that fateful day. Atta and Al-Shehhi spent time in Venice in South Sarasota County.

There they learned to fly planes at Huffman Aviation.

Shortly after the attacks, Huffman Aviation owner Rudi Dekkers said, "I heard what happened and the first thing I questioned myself was, if I would've known, I would've killed them with my own bare hands."

He also said, "These two gentlemen's case. I can't call them gentlemen. In these two animals' cases, they apparently were pilots, good pilots because they conducted the training, did the training and passed the license."

And according to recently released FBIdocuments, a wealthy Middle Eastern family mysteriously fled the Venice areashortly before the attacks.

The FBI claims the familyhad no ties to the 9-11 terrorists, but the investigative website, browardbulldog.orgbelieves otherwise, and has filed a federal lawsuit pushing for moreinformation.

Burns said in the daysfollowing the attack, his office got numerous calls about the terroristsspending time in the area.

Colonel Burns said,"It just makes you realize to never say that can never happen here.Because that certainly we were part of American history."

A part of history that forever changed thiscountry.

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