|I call this Still Life with Kitten|
Instead, I am invoking Rule 17(b)(ii) of the Secret Book of Rules that states when the Vice President of the United States comes to town, YOU WRITE ABOUT IT! Because how often do you get close enough to SEE a Vice President and all that goes into having him visit your high school?
As I've written before, roughly a third of our town was destroyed or damaged by an EF-5 tornado on May 22, 2011, including 9 school buildings, 6 of which were completely destroyed. The high school and the vo-tech center were destroyed. Temporary locations were found for them to use: an empty box store at the mall for 11th and 12th graders, a 100 year old surplus school building (that had once been a high school, a junior high, and a middle school, among other incarnations) for the 9th and 10th graders, and an empty warehouse for the vo-tech school.
After three years of using these improvised locations, the new, state-of-the-art high school was completed (mostly) in time for this school year to start (a week late), with an official ribbon cutting ceremony held on Friday, October 3. Best part of this? Vice President Joe Biden was going to attend.
On Monday of this week, when my daughter came home from volleyball practice, she excitedly reported that the Secret Service was in the building all day (they were in a group in the gym during volleyball practice when she accidentally hit a ball into their midst and had to go retrieve it). She reported that many of her friends were recording Vines of the Secret Service. I asked her if she had taken a picture of them, and she said she was too scared to try.
On Tuesday, my daughter reported that, during a class she has on the ground floor and with two walls of windows, they could look out and see Secret Service agents looking at the building from the outside, then walking back to the doors they had exited from and finding themselves locked out. (Our high school building is obviously more secure than the White House.) Still no picture from her.
On Wednesday, the Secret Service was on the roof. I told her if she didn't get a picture of one of them, she wasn't my daughter.
On Thursday, she sent me a text:
Seems she was in the hallway, running an errand, and one was on his phone. As she walked down the hallway, holding her phone in front of her and snapping pictures, he turned, covered the phone with his hand, and asked her what she was doing. Oops. She did get a (blurry) picture for me, then sent me one a friend had taken which showed one of the Secret Service agents pointing out the kid taking pictures of them.
|Emma's stealth picture. Not so stealthy after all.|
|Zoom in on the guy in the middle.|
SIDE NOTE: Come on, Secret Service, what do you expect when you're in a high school with 2200 students with cell phones? THIS IS THE BIGGEST THING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED TO THEM!
Friday was the big day. I won't even get into how difficult it was to drop Emma off at school that morning, with all the local police and highway patrol blocking off the parking lots and drives into the school. She got there, and I knew that for this one day, she couldn't be in a safer place!
My friend Melinda picked me up from preschool at noon to go to the ribbon cutting. A cold front had moved through, and it was windy and about 54 degrees with a light sprinkle falling. We parked on a side street nearby and walked, huddling under an umbrella, and walked through the metal detector WHICH I SET OFF.
"Did your boobies set it off again?" asked Melinda.
The Secret Service agent waved his wand over me, pausing at the pocket of my sweatshirt.
"Are your boobies down here?" he asked. "What do you have in your pocket?"
I reached in and pulled out -- my whistle that I use at recess to call the kids to line up. Oops. We were cleared to go and continued up to the front of the building, where the stage was set up and the students were filing out of the building (each had to go through a metal detector as well). We were pretty far away from the festivities at first, but we managed to saunter closer, well back from where the students were but close enough to see the stage from the side.
I was snapping pictures with my phone (not very good ones, I might add, because it was cloudy and the lighting was terrible, although the rain had stopped). A helicopter was circling the building, the snipers were on top of the school (and on top of the church across the street), students and other spectators were excitedly awaiting the arrival of the Vice President. I decided to take a little video of the helicopter and the crowd when...my phone went black and turned off. And wouldn't turn on again. I was shocked. My battery was at 93% when we arrived, so how did this happen?! Melinda promised to take pictures for me (she brought a real camera, as her daughter got to sit on the stage during the ceremony and she wanted a picture of that), and periodically, I tried the power button. It finally came on again, battery power dropped down to 45%, and I took a couple more pictures when -- ZAP -- it was shut down again.
A man nearby said the Secret Service had the capability to jam cell phones. And then I wondered if they had HAND PICKED me, because of my little status update on Facebook:
I WAS ONLY KIDDING! Okay, half kidding. My plan was to take a selfie with Vice President Biden in the background. I had no plan to rush the stage, and even if I HAD, the sight of the weapons those agents had on top of the building was MORE than enough to change my mind.
Emma came out on the risers with the rest of the choir for the National Anthem. Melinda snapped pictures for me AS THE SECRET SERVICE HAD MY PHONE JAMMED. Someone came out and affixed the presidential seal to the podium (or maybe it was a VICE presidential seal?) and the VIPs and speakers who got to sit on the stage filed out. It was like waiting for the Beatles to take the stage. Finally, he came out the front doors of the school. He passed right by the end of the risers where Emma was standing. She was so excited, she was in tears, and he looked right at her and did this:
The ceremony began with speeches upon speeches, including touching ones by our superintendent, Dr. C.J. Huff (which included a moment of silence for the 161 people who lost their lives in the tornado) and by school board president Annie Sharp, until the man we were there to see moved to the podium. Vice President Biden delivered a heartfelt speech, acknowledging how the people of Joplin worked together to rebuild, commending the school system for speedily finding alternative places for our students to go to school by the time classes were to start less than 3 months after the tornado, and wishing us a successful homecoming game that night (and yes, we won). It was an honor to have him there.
My phone was momentarily unjammed, and I tried to get a selfie with the Vice President in the background, then -- ZAP -- no more phone.
The ribbon was cut (6 and a half miles of ribbon strung around the campus, representing the length of the tornado's path), the dignitaries and guests left the stage, and Melinda and I walked up closer to it so we (she) could get some pictures. Secret Service agents (who really do wear reflective sunglasses and ear pieces) were standing on the ground in front of the stage, eyeballing everyone. I was taking it all in (mentally, SINCE MY PHONE WAS JAMMED AND I COULDN'T TAKE PICTURES) when I realized I was seeing the top of a Joplin Eagles ball cap standing on the other side of the security fencing, and UNDER that cap was VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN. AND HE WAS SHAKING HANDS AND TAKING PICTURES!
I saw my daughter's French teacher (someone I believe to be another Democrat in this sea of Republicans in this part of the state) and asked to borrow his phone to text Emma to come to the stage from wherever she was. I then saw one of the volleyball coaches and asked if she could take a picture of me with the Vice President behind me (still thinking selfie with him in the background) when the opportunity to walk right up to him and get my picture taken with him arose. And I seized it!
He put his arm around me and posed with me. And he couldn't have been kinder. I was giggly and starstruck as I walked away, and more than just a little smug that I had, indeed, managed to get my picture taken with the Vice President of the United States (take THAT, Secret Service who jammed my phone!).
Emma, who had received the text from me via her French teacher, came running up then. Melinda and I told her to get up there, and Melinda and Coach Travis took pictures of her with the Vice President.
As she approached him, he turned to her and said, "Hey, there, beautiful!" and gave her a hug. Not a side hug for pictures, but a full-on hug.
"I'm a die-hard Democrat!" she said to him, and he answered, "That's so nice to know!"
They posed for pictures, and he said to her, "You're so beautiful. Did you know that?"
She walked away on a cloud, saying it would have only been better if it had been President Obama, although she fully admits she would probably pass out if she ever got a chance to meet him.
Emma went back to the building. Melinda and I hung around a took a few more pictures (SHE did; MY PHONE WAS STILL JAMMED). We got a Secret Service agent (one of the nice ones, not the steely eyed ones) to cut off a piece of the ribbon for us with the knife he had in his pocket, for which Melinda said to him, "Are you cleared to have that in your pocket?" and eliciting a huge laugh from him (SOME of them are human).
When he bent over to pick up the ribbon, we could see the bulge in the back of his jacket that hid his gun. And even though this agent was actually friendly, the bottom line is this man is willing to die for our President and Vice President. That's quite a commitment to your job.
By the time we made our way back to the car, me absolutely giddy that I had fulfilled my prophecy to Facebook that morning, Melinda's phone battery had died. My phone, of course, was still zapped. We settled into the car, she turned the key, and... click, click, click.
And no, the lights weren't left on, the door ajar, nothing. The battery wasn't old. A local police officer was blocking off the street a few feet away, and he very kindly came over and jumped us, saying he does this every day for people.
But not people whom the Secret Service was out to get. Like me. I may have gotten my picture with the Vice President, but they got the last laugh. I bet those snipers on the roof finally cracked a smile.
|We are Joplin. We are Eagles.|
(Thanks, Melinda Campbell, for the pictures!)
A Fly on our (Chicken Coop) Wall, Amycake and the Dude</ a>, Considerings, Finding Ninee, Getting Literal</ a>, I Want Backsies, Mother of Imperfection, Rewritten, Thankful Me, The Wakefield Doctrine
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