ROUND VALLEY — Less than a year after the 9-11 terrorist attacks, President George W. Bush visited Round Valley to offer comfort and hope to the evacuees of the Rodeo-Chediski Fire.
The stop in Round Valley was a whirlwind visit, lasting only a couple of hours, but Steve West, town manager for Springerville, remembers it well.
People were “really shocked” when he came here, West said.
“Nobody comes to small-town America, especially someone like him,” he said.
West, who was chief of police for Springerville at the time, said he received a call a couple of days prior from the White House, notifying him about the planned visit, just as the community was flooding with evacuees.
“The White House?" he remembers asking the caller.
By 4 p.m. the day before the President’s June 25, 2002, visit, West said the Secret Service had arrived at Springerville Airport. By 8 a.m. the next day, they had everything set up. Local law enforcement was not burdened during a time of duress, West said.
West said the Secret Service officers carefully planned the President’s short drive from the airport to the Round Valley Dome, timed how long it took to drive the route, and set up an alternate route, plus a safe holding place for the President along the route should he come under an assassination attack.
Reporters and media from across the U.S., and even international outlets, had already flocked to Round Valley to cover the plight of the evacuees. They now turned their attention to the President.