It was years after moving back to New York from Texas our lives reconnected through a “mutual friend.” My wife and I had a special events company at the time that catered to many well-known politicians and high profile clients and one such client asked us to handle the event for her daughter’s wedding at their mansion on Long Island’s north shore, also known in many of author Nelson DeMille’s books as “The Gold Coast.” President George H.W. Bush was supposed to be in attendance and wasn’t able to be present so he sent his son Neil to represent the family. While setting up one of the arrangements on the home’s grand staircase Neil Bush walked over and introduced himself to me while complimenting us on the work we were doing. I then asked him if he was from Houston and shared with him that I thought we had a mutual friend in common, Jim Napolitano, who at this time was part of the team protecting the Bush family. To my surprise, Neil Bush said to me, “You know Nappi?” Before I knew it I was sitting on the staircase with Neil Bush and the Secret Service agents sharing stories of my summer escapades with Nappi.
Years passed and during that time Jim went through the ranks with the Secret Service starting as a Criminal Investigator, where he was moved through different squads for exceeding quotas of arrests and closed cases, and then to the “West African Task Force” where his responsibility was to thwart and arrest Soviet-backed Nigerians who were fraudulently obtaining birth certificates and drivers licenses to obtain numerous credit cards to buy and sell merchandise illegally. However, this is just the tip of Jim’s illustrious career. “Agent Napolitano” was selected to work on a task force that investigated “The Supernote”, a far superior counterfeit note being used by Middle East terrorist organizations such as Hamas, Hezbollah, and Al Qaida, and was successful in helping standing up the Supernote Task Force that was comprised of the U.S. Secret Service, CIA, and DEA. He was the 160th agent to ever become part of the elite Counter Assault Team under the Presidential Protection Division, which included “training with the Tier 1 Special Operations Forces”. He was a Rescue Swimmer for Presidents George H.W. Bush 41, George W. Bush 43, and Bill Clinton and their families. He was only 1 of 42 agents to be a member of both the C.A.T. and Rescue Swimmer Teams. He went on to be an instructor in Control Tactics and Rescue Swimming, further becoming manager in Water Safety and Emergency Medicine, among other courses he directed for Special Agents.
As if this isn’t an impressive enough background during his 23 years as a Secret Service Special Agent, Jim has protected three Presidents and their families and was personally instructed by President Reagan to make sure he and his team provided the utmost protection for Presidential Candidate Reverend Jessie Jackson. Since retiring from the Secret Service, Jim was Security Representative for Marathon Oil, traveling throughout the Middle East safeguarding the employees and their assets. In June of 2013 he took his vast array of skill sets and went on to become Chief of Police for the City of Montgomery, Texas for six years.
Recalling the events of 9-11, Jim shared with me that at that time he was the Resident Agent in charge of the Waco Resident Office. Jim was responsible for security around the President’s Crawford Ranch which was known as the “Western White House.” He was responsible for “hundreds of agents, arranging staff, military assets and other governmental entities,” according to an article written in the Montgomery County (Texas) newspaper “Golden Hammer.”
“I was at Baylor University’s Rec Center,” Jim recalled, “when I saw the second plane hit the World Trade Center and immediately changed into my battle dress uniform…I called the ranch and there was no answer on any of the lines which was highly unusual and increased our level of high alert….I was able to get in touch with the Major in charge of the DPS regional office in Waco and requested as many troopers he could spare. Two agents and several Texas State Troopers raced to the ranch….Upon arrival two agents who were allowing various construction trucks entry into the ranch for ongoing work being performed told us how the construction crews had accidentally cut the power to the ranch and it was currently being reconnected.” In the meantime, Jim had been in contact with the team and President Bush, who had been in Sarasota reading to second-grade school children and upon being briefed of the attack, had been immediately rushed onto Airforce One. Jim recalls hearing the President expressing his frustration that he wanted to get back to Washington D.C., not circling for hours in Air Force One out of harm’s way. While President Bush and Airforce One were on high alert, Jim was equally frustrated and wanted to head to the areas of attack, but headquarters and the FAA said they were expecting “inbound (flights) coming to the ranch.” With the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on fire, and Flight 93 supposedly headed for Camp David before turning into a different location, Washington and Waco both weren’t options for the President to land. I remember calling Jim that day and asking if they were safe, and him saying, “Gary, I can’t stay on the phone we’re expecting incoming.”