|Newsday - THE EXPLOSION ON FLIGHT 800 / Local Student: 7-19-1996
By Mohamad Bazzi. STAFF WRITER
Queens College student Alan Van Capelle was looking forward to
meeting President Bill Clinton yesterday, but little did he know that in
the wake of the TWA plane crash, he would see the president expressing
"He was very sullen. It looked like he had tears in his eyes," Van
Capelle said in a phone interview after the meeting. "He was visibly
shaken up by what had happened."
Van Capelle, 21, of Commack, was one of 10 people who met with
Clinton at the White House yesterday morning. It was one of a series of
"coffee chats" organized by Clinton's campaign committee.
The meeting took place between 9 and 11 a.m., before Clinton held
his first press conference about the plane crash. As a result, Van
Capelle saw a rare side of the president - his raw emotional response to
As soon as he arrived at the White House at 8 a.m. for security
clearances, Van Capelle said he felt a sense of urgency. The group was
led by campaign staffers to the dining room in the president's private
residence, where they waited for about 15 minutes for Clinton to arrive.
"He walked into the room, and we all stood up," Van Capelle said.
"He then shook hands and took pictures with everyone."
As they were sitting down, Van Capelle said, someone in the group
told Clinton: "What a way to start the day." The president responded
curtly: "It's all part of the job."
Clinton began the meeting by asking the visitors to keep the
families of the crash victims in their prayers. He then gave an update
on the status of the crash, saying that there were preliminary
indications of an explosive device, according to Van Capelle.
After about 10 minutes, the discussion shifted to other topics such
as education, social spending and anti-crime legislation. The meeting,
which was attended by some of Clinton's campaign staff, also focused on
his re-election effort. "He didn't harp on the crash. He just looked
shaken," Van Capelle said. White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta
interrupted the meeting to give Clinton some briefing papers on the
crash, according to Van Capelle.
"As the meeting went on, he felt more comfortable," Van Capelle
said. "But you could tell that he had other things on his mind."
Copyright 1996, Newsday Inc.
Mohamad Bazzi, THE EXPLOSION ON FLIGHT 800 / Local Student: Clinton `VisiblyShaken',
07-19-1996, pp 11.
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