I found it interesting that the first response in Washington DC was “nothing to see here folks, go about your business”, there was clearly a strong desire for everything to go back to normal. So much so, that on the news on Wednesday evening there were interviews with tourists who had gotten tours of the White House on the day after terrorist bombings. At some point, the secret service (or someone) got more involved in the security arrangements, and security began to tighten up.
On Friday they extended the security zone around the White House to include the building where I work. This was a VERY bad day to forget my ID badge. Yes…I really did. I had just gotten it on Wednesday, too.
I knew I was in trouble when I realized that they had blocked off the street I usually walk along. There were yellow strips of “POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS” tape strung along the street. Police cars were stationed at the ends of the blocks with their lights flashing. Along with the cars every cross street had five or six security officers of one variety or another, military, police, private security, and guys in dark suits. At this point I’m walking along the nearest street I can, thinking “OhShitOhShitOhShitOhShit” …Then I think “well the worst they can do is send me home to get my badge…well…almost the worst thing.” I tried to look harmless and keep the thoughts of interrogation and strip searches out of my mind.
Thankfully, there turned out to be a garage entrance from one building onto the street that was the border of the secured zone. That meant I would only be dealing with the private security of my organization. Which means, presumably, they can look me up. So I walked up to the pair of security guards who were lifting up the yellow tape to let people though and said, “I forgot my badge.” To which the female guard said, “Mm, Mm, Mm” and shook her head, in that way of a mother who has found that their 4 year old child has dressed itself with the underwear on the outside… not really mad just utterly disbelieving.
“So does that mean you won’t let me in” I say more tremulously than I meant to. I am after all a full grown woman with a Ph.D. and a real job….who apparently can’t remember her ID badge. She is still looking at me incredulously.
“I have ID, and I’m in the system” and pull out my passport, which I still had in my purse from orientation day. “I really do work here.”
She takes my passport, and goes off into the building, leaving me to stand there and idly chat with the remaining security guard, for about 15 minutes. And comes back to get the names of people I work for, a list I thankfully also had on me, because I had had to have someone sign me in the first three mornings before I got my …um…badge.
Ultimately, she came back with a temporary badge, and I got in.
Columns by Red