A jumbo jet being chased by a F-16 fighter jets buzzed Lower Manhattan this morning, panicking New Yorkers, many of whom were forced to evacuate their office buildings.
It was not a terrorist attack, however, but a photo opportunity for Air Force One, sources told the Post.
President Obama was in Washington at the time, but the low-flying 747 circling the Statue of Liberty was one of the planes used as Air Force One, sources said.
The NYPD and the city were notified of the planned flight, but did not share that information with Mayor Bloomberg and other New Yorkers, many of whom said they were terrified.
Hours after the incident, a furious Bloomberg called the photo-op "insensitive."
"First thing is I'm annoyed - furious is a better word - that I wasn't told," he said. "Why the Defense Department wanted to do a photo op right around the site of the World Trade Center catastrophe defies imagination. Poor judgment would be a nice ways to phrase."
Bloomberg said federal officials notified the NYPD and another city official, whom he declined to identify, of the flight plan.
"Had I known about it I would have called them right away and asked them not to," he said. "The good news is it was nothing more than an ill considered, badly conceived, insensitive photo op - with the taxpayers' money."
Dominick Caglioti, who works at the Mercantile Exchange, thought the worst as he saw the jets hurtle toward his window just after 10:30 a.m. After learning it was all a photo op, he was furious.
"It's so stupid because they tell you about every fire drill, but they didn't tell us about this," he said.
The planes flew over the Verrazano Bridge, buzzed the left ear Lady Liberty and then continued up the Hudson past Jersey City and then circling back toward Staten Island, federal sources told the Post.
Thousands flooded the streets downtown as buildings called evacuations.
"There is situation outside. We don't have any further information," went one announcement at the Embassy Suites downtown.
After hearing it was all planned, many of those in the streets complained New Yorkers should have been warned.
"You don't do this to people down here after all we have been to," said Jillian Pizzarello, who also works at the Mercantile Exchange.
According to the Department of Defense, that Presidential Airlift Group began its aerial photography mission at Andrews Airforce Base.
"This mission, involving the VC-25 and an F-16, was conducted in conjunction with normally scheduled continuation training for assigned aircrew members," officials said.
A side by side photo shows exactly why many people were easily frightened by the event: