MASON, Ohio - Nearly three years after one of the most unforgettable days in U.S. history, the Republicans are heading to New York City, where their convention to nominate President Bush for re-election starts tomorrow amid concerns about a terrorist strike and violent anti-Bush protests.
The strongly Democratic city also is bracing for repeated references to 9/11 and Mr. Bush's "war on terrorism."
Lynn Faulkner - whose wife, Wendy, was killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center - said the symbolism of holding the national convention at Madison Square Garden, a short subway ride from Ground Zero, is "probably the right one."
"Don't think you're going to change us" is the message that terrorists will receive, said Mr. Faulkner, a 52-year-old business executive who lives in the Cincinnati suburb of Mason.
"I think it's defined George W. Bush's presidency," he added.
Hector Landron, 38, said he respects Mr. Faulkner's "personal loss," but he said Mr. Bush and his fellow Republicans should have picked another city.
"What happened on Sept. 11 in New York City and Pennsylvania and the Pentagon should not be politicized. I think they are trying to recapture Bush's brief, shining moment - his leadership a few days after Sept. 11 on the rubble. Having lost three friends in the Twin Towers, I think it's demeaning to their memories," he said.
Cheri Hottinger, a delegate from Newark, said she believes references to 9/11 will be "respectful."
Mr. Faulkner has not decided whether to travel to New York for the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. "They never recovered any of Wendy's remains. I still wake up every night imagining how terrified she had to have been.
"This was her worst fear; to be in a tall building in a fire. What happens? She's in one of the tallest buildings in the world with thousands of gallons of jet fuel burning," Mr. Faulkner said.
In the nine months before her death, Mrs. Faulkner commuted to Aon's offices, returning to her home in Mason for Friday through Sunday.
Yet, she found the time to prepare meals and left them in the freezer for her husband and two daughters for the next week. Mr. Faulkner still has her final hand-written list and instructions on the refrigerator.
Fighting back tears, Mr. Faulkner recalled how on the morning of Sept. 16, 2001, he told his daughters that their "mother wasn't coming home."
A few days before Mr. Bush was to speak last May 4 in nearby Lebanon Mr. Faulkner received a phone call from a neighbor, Linda Prince, who had an extra ticket. Mr. Faulkner decided to go.
The night before, Mrs. Prince said she had another extra ticket and asked if Mr. Faulkner's youngest daughter, 15-year-old Ashley, wanted to join them.
Mr. Faulkner and Ashley were close to the rail separating Mr. Bush from the crowd.
After his remarks, Mr. Bush shook hands and signed autographs. The President signed Ashley's program and moved on.
"This girl lost her mom in the World Trade Center on 9/11," Mrs. Prince told Mr. Bush.
"You could see the man's face change, from this political animal to a man, a father, and a husband," Mr. Faulkner said.
Mr. Bush walked back to Ashley and looked into her eyes.
"How are you doing?" Mr. Bush asked.
"I'm OK," she replied, with tears in her eyes.
"I see you have a father who loves you very much," Mr. Bush said.
At that moment, Mr. Faulkner snapped one shot with his digital camera.
Mr. Faulkner said he had worried a lot about Ashley.
"She has not shown a lot of emotion. In that moment, he was hers; all the pain and all the loss of her mom flooded through her for a moment," he said.
That afternoon, Mr. Faulkner sent an e-mail about what had happened to a dozen relatives and a few friends.
By the next morning, friends and relatives began to forward the photos to friends.
Mr. Faulkner said he took the picture so fast, Mr. Bush didn't have time to pose. "I feel like, every so often, that there are these images that are meant to be seen. I think the picture captures an incredible genuineness that we don't see any more in a world of photo opportunities." Mr. Faulkner said Mr. Bush's re-election campaign and the Republican Party have not asked if they can use the photo.
But last month, members of a conservative group, Progress for America, interviewed and videotaped Ashley about her meeting Mr. Bush, and said the footage could be used in a TV ad.
Mr. Faulkner said he has looked twice into Mr. Bush's eyes - the first time at "Ground Zero" when the President spoke to family members of the victims on the first anniversary of 9/11.
"There's the old saying that the eyes are the window to the soul. Twice, I've had a chance to look through those windows in unguarded moments and I liked what I saw. I believe what I saw is a man who really understands the evil we're dealing with."
Contact James Drew at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 614-221-0496.