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White House apologizes for low-flying plane

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Official says President Obama "furious" about incident
  • White House 747 was taking part in official photo shoot, FAA says
  • Sight brought back memories of September 11 for many
  • Witnesses called flight "unsettling," "absolute travesty"
By Mythili Rao
CNN
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- A White House official apologized Monday after he OK'd a large aircraft to fly low over Manhattan -- a sight that sent people reminded of 9/11 running in fear.

A New York police official says the department had been alerted about the flight.

Witnesses reported seeing the plane circle over the Upper New York Bay near the Statue of Liberty.

"I was here on 9/11," said iReporter Tom Kruk, who saw the plane as he was getting coffee Monday morning and snapped a photo. Kruk called the sight of the aircraft low in the sky "unsettling."

The huge aircraft, which functions as Air Force One when the president is aboard, was taking part in a classified, government-sanctioned photo shoot, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

"Last week, I approved a mission over New York. I take responsibility for that decision," said Louis Caldera, director of the White House Military Office. "While federal authorities took the proper steps to notify state and local authorities in New York and New Jersey, it's clear that the mission created confusion and disruption." Video Watch people run in fear as plane flies overhead »

Witnesses reported seeing the plane circle over the Upper New York Bay near the Statue of Liberty before flying up the Hudson River. It was accompanied by two F-16s.

Two officials told CNN the White House Military Office was trying to update its file photos of Air Force One. The officials said the president was angry when he learned Monday afternoon about the flight, which sparked fear in the New York-New Jersey area.

"The president was furious about it," one of the officials said. The incident outraged many New Yorkers, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg. iReport.com: Share your photos, video and reaction to low-flying 747

"First thing is, I'm annoyed -- furious is a better word -- that I wasn't told," he said, calling the aviation administration's decision to withhold details about the flight "ridiculous" and "poor judgment."

"Why the Defense Department wanted to do a photo op right around the site of the World Trade Center defies the imagination," he said. "Had we known, I would have asked them not to." Video Watch the White House respond to questions about the scare »

Linda Garcia-Rose, a social worker who counsels post-traumatic stress disorder patients in an office just three blocks from where the World Trade Center towers once stood, called the flight an "absolute travesty."

"There was no warning. It looked like the plane was about to come into us," she said. "I'm a therapist, and I actually had a panic attack."

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Garcia-Rose, who works with nearly two dozen post-traumatic stress disorder patients ages 15 to 47, said she was inundated with phone calls from patients Monday morning.

"They're traumatized. They're asking 'How could this happen?' They're nervous. Their anxiety levels are high," she said.

Garcia-Rose is considering filing a class-action suit against the government for sanctioning the plane's unannounced flight. "I believe the government has done something really wrong," she said.

Capt. Anna Carpenter of Andrews Air Force Base said local law enforcement agencies and the Federal Aviation Administration had been given notice of the exercise.

New York Police Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne said the department had been alerted to the flight by the federal agency "with directives to local authorities not to disclose information about it."

Sen. Chuck Schumer echoed the mayor's sentiments in a separate news conference Monday afternoon, saying the Federal Aviation Administration should have notified the public to avoid panic.

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"It is absolutely outrageous and appalling to think that the FAA would plan such a photo shoot and not warn the public, knowing full well New Yorkers still have the vivid memory of 9/11 sketched in their minds," the New York Democrat said. Schumer said the FAA's decision to not announce the fly-by "really borders on being either cruel or very very stupid."

Building evacuations took place across the Hudson River in Jersey City, New Jersey.

All About ManhattanFederal Aviation AdministrationSeptember 11 Attacks

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