New York Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening and District of Columbia Mayor Anthony Williams took time off to play in the Big Apple Sunday, hoping to show Americans that terrorists have failed to shut down the country with a whirlwind day of eating, shopping and taking in a Broadway show.
Armed, they said, with their credit cards and Christmas shopping lists, the Washington area leaders, both Democrats, joined the governors of Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee for the junket. The purpose: Spend money, have fun, eat well. The message to residents across the country: Join in.
"We don't honor our loved ones and the ones that we lost by hiding in a hole," Williams declared before boarding a commercial flight to New York at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. "What we're telling people is if you are planning a convention, have that convention. If you are planning a trip, take it."
Economics demanded the "Back to Business Tour," Williams said. The Washington region depends on the 25 million tourists who pour into the nation's capital each year. But with some hotels in the city operating at 35 percent capacity, Williams said tourism needs a boost.
Glendening, who organized the trip, said the Maryland economy is beginning to sag under the weight of consumer worries and layoffs in the travel and hospitality businesses. By spending money in New York and Washington, Glendening said he hopes to give people the "all clear" to enjoy themselves again.
"We hope people understand it's OK to travel, it's OK to go shopping, it's OK to have fun," Glendening said. "We want to show our respects for the victims of the attacks. But we're very interested in supporting the president's request to return the country to a degree of normalcy."
This trip was, in a sense, anything but normal: five governors, a mayor, a retinue of state troopers, political aides and a big bus.
They started at the Carnegie Deli, a familiar stomping ground for New York politicians, where Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Republican, and Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, a Democrat, shared a huge slice of cheesecake.
"It's in the great spirit of bipartisanship," Huckabee joked. "Mississippi and Arkansas have never cooperated so well."
Pausing for a somber moment, the group stopped at the Battalion 6 firehouse, home of Ladder Company 3, which lost three officers and nine firefighters Sept. 11.
"From everybody in Washington, D.C., our nation's capital, our condolences," Williams told Lawrence Cleary, the station's battalion chief. "Your are our heroes."
Then it was off to Macy's department store. The politicians had been instructed that rescue workers need underwear, T-shirts and socks. Thus, five governors and a mayor spent hundreds of dollars on men's undergarments.
Glendening bought a package of Calvin Klein T-shirts for $21.75 and two packages of Gold Toe sports socks for $18 each. Williams made similar purchases and picked up a pair of shoes for his wife.
Huckabee also bought socks for the rescue workers.
"It's a nice store," he said of the store that stretches more than two city blocks. "But I'll probably wait till I get home to Wal-Mart."
Later, the group joined New York Gov. George Pataki for a snack at Sardi's Restaurant in Times Square and then went to a performance of "The Lion King."
Today, the group is scheduled to appear on the morning talk shows, then fly back to Washington, where they plan to tour the Pentagon, visit the Smithsonian and spend money in restaurants and shops.