'This girl lost her mom in the World Trade Center on 9-11'
During his visit to the Golden Lamb Inn in Lebanon, President Bush stops to hug Ashley Faulkner, who
lost her mom in the Sept. 11 attacks.
Photo by Lynn Faulkner
In a moment largely unnoticed by the throngs of people in Lebanon waiting for autographs from the president of the United States, George W. Bush stopped to hold a teenager's head close to his heart.
Lynn Faulkner, his daughter, Ashley, and their neighbor, Linda Prince, eagerly waited to shake the president's hand Tuesday at the Golden Lamb Inn. He worked the line at a steady campaign pace, smiling, nodding and signing autographs until Prince spoke:
"This girl lost her mom in the World Trade Center on 9-11."
Bush stopped and turned back.
"He changed from being the leader of the free world to being a father, a husband and a man," Faulkner said. "He looked right at her and said, 'How are you doing?' He reached out with his hand and pulled her into his chest."
Faulkner snapped one frame with his camera.
"I could hear her say, 'I'm OK,' " he said. "That's more emotion than she has shown in 21/2 years. Then he said, 'I can see you have a father who loves you very much.' "
"And I said, 'I do, Mr. President, but I miss her mother every day.' It was a special moment."
Special for Lynn Faulkner because the Golden Lamb was the place he and his wife, Wendy Faulkner, celebrated their anniversary every year until she died in the south tower of the World Trade Center, where she had traveled for business.
The day was also special for Ashley, a 15-year-old Mason High School student, because the visit was reminiscent of a trip she took four years ago with her mother and Prince. They spent all afternoon in the rain waiting to see Bush on the campaign trail. Ashley remembers holding her mother's hand, eating Triscuits she packed and bringing along a book in case she got bored.
But this time was different. She understood what the president was saying, and she got close enough to see him face to face.
"The way he was holding me, with my head against his chest, it felt like he was trying to protect me," Ashley said. "I thought, 'Here is the most powerful guy in the world, and he wants to make sure I'm safe.' I definitely had a couple of tears in my eyes, which is pretty unusual for me."
The photo has been circulating across the country, Faulkner said. Relatives have passed it on to friends, bosses and acquaintances. As they tell the story, they also share in Wendy Faulkner's legacy, which her family continues through the Wendy Faulkner Memorial Children's Foundation.
"I'm a pretty cynical and jaded guy at this point in my life," Faulkner said of the moment with the president. "But this was the real deal. I was really impressed. It was genuine and from the heart."