On Happy Occasion, First Lady Recalls Tragedies,
HOUSTON (AP) _ For Barbara Bush, the joy of a Hollywood-style homecoming for America’s Desert Storm forces was tempered by the deaths of two close friends in plane crashes and six strangers in the Sacramento, Calif., hostage shootout.
President Bush and his wife were surrounded by dozens of stars on stage Friday at the taping of a two-hour television special in Los Angeles honoring the troops and the 50th anniversary of the USO.
″I loved it. I thought it was great,″ Mrs. Bush said of the ″Welcome Home America″ show, which will be aired on ABC-TV April 14.
She spoke with reporters aboard Air Force One Friday night on the flight from Los Angeles to their adopted hometown.
But she saddened when she brought up the deaths of former Texas Senator John Tower and Sen. John Heinz, R-Pa., in separate plane crashes.
Tower died Friday in a commuter plane crash in Brunswick, Ga., with his daughter and 21 others. Heinz was killed along with five people, including two schoolchildren, when his small plane collided with a helicopter outside Philadelphia on Thursday.
″We had very bad news today, very bad news, with John Tower. He’s such a close friend. And his daughter, too,″ she said.
″I thought it was so sad. He was a great, great friend of ours. ... I was thinking the night we put on his 50th birthday party for him,″ she said.
She called Heinz, heir to a food fortune, ″a wonderful man.″
″He didn’t have to work. He didn’t have to lift a finger, and he yet he worked so hard all of the time. He really wanted to serve and he did serve. ... He was a great defender of the elderly.″
She added, ″The Sacramento thing was pretty tough too... that was one of the saddest things. Awful. So it’s been sort of an up and down time.″
Three gunmen and three hostages were killed Thursday night when police stormed an electronics store in Sacramento.
Mrs. Bush said the USO extravaganza was a special delight ″for a movie fan like me.″ The entertainers included Tom Selleck, Frank Sinatra, Lee Greenwood and Bob Hope.
Bush called Hope ″Mr. USO″ and gave him the service organization’s lifetime achievement award.
Hope said, ″It’s a delight to get it from you because you’re probably the finest commander in chief I’ve ever known.″
″I think he was carried away, but I agree with him,″ said the first lady.
She also defended her husband’s decision to send humanitarian aid but not intervene in the Kurds’ struggle against Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.
″We’re doing the right thing. People don’t want their sons and daughters getting into Iraq’s internal affairs,″ she said.