What an exciting day it was. September 8th 2001. We were all gathered at the San Bernardino International Airport (formally Norton Air Force Base) in San Bernardino, California; about two hundred a fifty of us. We were waiting for Air Force One (SAM27000) to come in from Andrews Air Force base near Washington D.C., so that the “keys” to the Air Force One could be handed over to Mrs. Reagan. Of course you all know by now that Air Force One is not really Air Force One unless a seated U.S. President is on board. So, it’s simply by force of habit that I keep calling SAM27000….”Air Force One”
Lot’s of dignitaries, press, ex Air Force One pilots and chefs, the Secretary of The Air Force, and other government officials were aboard the plane. After all, this was going to be the last flight of this National treasure, and a transference of the people’s property to individuals that were going to take the responsibility of caring for the plane forever and a day.
We had cameras at Andrew’s. Cameras on the flight. We had two cameramen waiting on the field in camera cars to record the final landing. The Air Force band was playing hail to the chief and the plane did a low, load “fly by” to stir up a bit more excitement. Call me a kid but I got goose pimples. I wish you were all there as I know you all would have felt the same way: Proud to be American.
27000 landed, made its way from the main runway to the tarmac where a stage and podium had been set up, and where she would become the backdrop and the honored guest. Chairs facing the podium and tarmac were filled with flag waiving, cheering guests and dignitaries. You never saw more stars and stripes in one place and at one time! The nose of the plane moved closer to the camera lenses. She came to a full stop behind the podium as the crowd cheered and the band continued to play. Mrs. Reagan boarded the plane to greet the guests that were aboard last flight. It was a clearly emotional and nostalgic moment for her. Guests departed the plane, as Mrs. Reagan signed the necessary documents at the desk in the President’s office. She emerged at the front hatch of the plane under the arm of the Secretary of the Air Force, to huge cheers from the crowd, and with a smile on her face. They came down the stairs together, walked to the podium where they thanked all those who helped bring Air Force One to the Reagan Library. The log book was officially handed over to Mrs. Reagan.
The day ended with some refreshments and the plane being pushed into the Sheriff’s hanger, striped of certain classified navigational materials under guard of the military. That was the last we saw of her for about a year except for a few visits with people that were being considered to take her apart.
Three days later, two airliners smashed into the Twin Towers in New York City.