America Under Fire: Florida Gov. Jeb Bush
By Greg McDonald, Senior Writer
When they assumed office, none of the state governors could have anticipated the kinds of problems and challenges theyve faced since September 11. From time to time, Stateline.org is publishing their reflections on their role in Americas fight with terrorism. In this installment, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican, talks about how the attacks affected him as an elected official and family man, and his assessment of how Americans are coping.
Stateline.org (via e-mail): What impact did the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon have on you as an elected leader and how you fulfill your responsibilities as governor?
Bush: I have no doubt that since September 11th not only my role as Governor of Florida but also as father, husband and American - has been altered in many ways. For the past three years, the main focus of my administration has been the improvement of our educational system, providing care for our most vulnerable citizens and protecting our environment. Today, although these issues continue to be at the forefront of our agenda, we have seen security and economic development issues become our top priorities.
Florida has been particularly hard hit by the economic downturn following the attacks, and we have had to act fast to help all Floridians especially those dependent on tourism related industries for their livelihood get back on their feet as soon as possible. This has not been an easy task, but I know that since September 11th we will have many challenging days ahead of us.
I was informed of the attacks on the WTC while attending a Cabinet meeting in Tallahassee. At the outset of the meeting, an aide told me that a plane had crashed into one of the towers. Like almost every American, I thought that this was just an unfortunate accident. I asked all the people present in the hall to observe a minute of silence in honor of the victims, and we proceeded with the agenda. Minutes later, the same aide informed me that a second plane had crashed into the other tower, and that both crashes were thought to be terrorist attacks.
I never expected to see something like this happen to our country. I was in shock, but also worried about what could happen next. My initial response was to get in touch with my family and with members of my staff to assess the situation and examine its impact to Florida. As a preventive measure, we ordered the evacuation of the Capitol building, but fortunately we were able to return to the building the next day.
Stateline.org: Have you noticed any change in the way your constituents now view the role of the state and federal government in their lives?
Bush: There is no doubt about the fact that the American people are looking to their leaders the President in particular for guidance and inspiration after the terrorist attacks on New York city and Washington more than at any time in our history since the end of World War II.
Since September 11th, Americans have seen the role of both state and the federal government evolve and focus more on security issues. This is affecting our citizens' lives in many ways, particularly when it comes to traveling. But I think that Americans in general, and Floridians in particular, are glad that we are taking these measures to ensure their safety.
At the same time, I have also noticed that a renewed spirit of unity is spreading across America's cities. Our citizens are not only looking at their government for help, they are also relying more on each other, on their neighbors and friends, on their communities. This unity is not only encouraging, because it reflects the best our country has to offer, but it will also be instrumental in the coming months, as our nation's war on terrorism moves forward.