Saturday, October 4, 2014

Success, In Spite Of Attempts By The Secret Service To Thwart My Efforts

I've had plenty of things to be thankful for this week. I thought about writing about how my daughter's volleyball team got 4th place in a tournament last weekend. Or about the awesome antique table my dad got me at an auction. Or maybe how the weather has finally turned cooler and how I enjoy sitting in the family room with the fall colors all around me, maybe including a picture of Ruby (who had been stealing candy corn out of a candy dish moments before).


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. 

Dead battery.

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!)




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43 comments:

  1. AWESOME! Wow. A lifetime of memories in a single day. Proud of you for getting that photo and proud of you for being a Democrat in a sea of Republicans. I often feel like the lonely petunia in an onion patch, if you know what I mean. And Emma is beautiful, so we know the VP tells the truth.

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    1. I DO know what you mean, Petunia! It was an amazing day. I got a better photo than I could have ever imagined. And thank you, I think she's beautiful, and if the VP concurs....

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  2. WOW! That is so super cool! Your daughter is adorable, not wanting to get in trouble! I wish my teenager had a touch of that spirit :) That IS a cool thing, much deserved after all you've had to go through. Nice to have a fancy new school, with that NEW SCHOOL smell! What a cool photo opp.

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    1. I couldn't believe she wouldn't take one for the team and get me a picture like everyone else! Maybe I should be glad she isn't very sneaky. The school is awesome! Parts still aren't completed but should be by spring. And it looks like an office building inside!

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  3. What an amazing post! What an experience! VP Biden always seems like a genuinely good guy. (And one that loves the spotlight!) I'm so excited you and Emma got to meet him!

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    1. It was like having a rock star at the ceremony! He's more handsome in person than he is in pictures or on tv. And yes, just a genuine good guy. Not pretentious in the least.

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  4. Joe's got a thing for blonds huh? or just good taste in general... Emma is beautiful! and how sweet not to want to get in trouble with the big boys! Awesome that you got to meet and greet the VP! Very cool! Of course I have to ask...does Ruby eat candy corn or just play with it? I ask cuz Skip hates sugar.

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    1. It kind of makes him sound like a lech, but he was really sweet when he said it, and it rocked her world. And thank you, she is a beautiful girl. Can't believe she couldn't get a picture without getting in trouble, though.
      Ruby just plays with the candy corn. She fishes it out, either with a foot or with her mouth, then plays hockey with it on the table until it falls on the floor, where she continues to play hockey with it until she loses it under a piece of furniture or gets bored.
      She likes cake and ice cream, so it's not because it's sugary that she doesn't eat it.

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    2. probably because its plastic!

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    3. It's not plastic! It's a delicious sugary delight!

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  5. I'm so happy you got PHOTOS to show off. And also it's kinda cool that the secret service blocked you. I had NO IDEA they had that kind of capability. And I want to know where I can get one of those devices so I can point it at the next bunch of rowdy kids with their car stereo on too loud.

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    1. I had no idea, either, and I looked it up when I got home. Now, did they get ME on purpose or did I just get hit randomly, I don't know. But it's pretty fishy that I kept getting hit AND the car battery was dead, don't you think...?

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  6. Oh. my. GAAAWD!!! I am so not a huge political head or a celebrity head. I don't do anything remotely fangirl. But holy shit!!!! That is so amazing! No matter what your politics, I always think VP Biden seems like a straight-up good guy. I feel like my Grandfather would have liked him and that is the best litmus test for me.
    This whole thing is awesome and you know what? I'm crying my stupid eyes out. Emma is beautiful, of course, and so is her Mamma! How amazing for both of you. I think you probably should be very thankful that she isn't more sneaky, even with parental permission. That's a blessing and a few easier nights sleep, right? I think I started crying at the part about the six miles of ribbon and then the nice VP and then the part about the SS guy being human and laughing and the part about him being willing to die for that guy...gets me every time. I'm a sucker for good old American patriotism. When I was a kid I wanted to be a Secret Service agent. Then I found out about the whole actually have to take a bullet for the boss thing and I was like pfffffft...never mind.
    GAH this is so amazing!

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    1. I'm SO not a fangirl, either, but it was so cool to get to go see a standing Vice President. And then to get to meet him and get a picture taken with him? I couldn't believe they would let him stand there and do that! He has always seemed like a straight-up good guy to me, too, and this seemed to enforce that.
      I teared up during the national anthem and again during the Pledge of Allegiance, of all things. I say it every single day with my preschoolers, yet this time, it really got to me and had meaning.
      Thank you for all your kind words! I just love you to pieces, Lisa! And I'm glad you aren't a Secret Service agent, because you wouldn't be able to be a blogger, too, I suspect. I didn't know the ribbon was the same length as the path of the tornado until Dr. Huff was giving his speech; I just knew they were trying to break a world record with its length.

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    2. Aw, I loves you right back!
      No, I suspect I could not also be a blogger if I were in the Secret Service. Although that could be a pretty spectacular and potentially blog, don't you think???
      I've just been reading your early blog posts not because I'm a crazy stalker, but because when I clicked the link above and read the sea urchin one I just kept reading. You are one amazing lady - and hysterical all the way through it. That is a gift. I had to quit when I cycled back to the sea urchin, though, because I should really be in bed getting some sleep for my sick self.

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  7. What a memorable day! Thanks for sharing your experience with us. :-)

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    1. It was quite an experience! We'll never forget it.

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  8. Whoo. With all that happening, Dyanne, you can write a screenplay for a movie. Exciting stuff. Cool to see Vice-President Biden!!

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    1. Michelle, it was SO cool! Truly a chance of a lifetime!

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  9. I'm so happy you all were excited about this. I was cracking up reading the part about how you wanted her to take pictures of the Secret Service men but then she got in trouble for taking them for you hehe. Joe Biden doesn't look real. He's like a model old man or something. Maybe it's his smile. I don't know. :)

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    1. I felt pretty badly that I asked Emma to get me a picture (like, DAILY, I asked her) and she got busted for it! Joe Biden is very handsome! I didn't realize how much so until I saw him up close. Those pictures do look a little like a cardboard cut-out, though, don't they?

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  10. That is SO COOL! Once, when I was downtown DC, there were a bunch of people waiting on this street. I asked what was going on and they said Obama was in the building they were looking at. So I waited for like an hour, hoping to take a photo of him (my phone was fine for whatever reason) but then the secret service came out and said he'd taken an alternate route (like um, huh? an underground tunnel???). I LOVE that you got your photo with VP and one w/ him hugging and posing with Emma! Sweet! And yes, highly suspicious that your car battery was dead, too.
    My friends and I joke about the CIA building here emitting a signal as every time you drive by there, if you're on the phone, the call drops. Hmmm....

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    1. You would think the one of us who lives in the DC area would have seen Obama or Biden at some time and not the one in the middle of the country! I would have stood in front of that building like a fool, waiting for Obama to come out, too. Do you suppose there ARE hidden tunnels all over the city? There are Metro lines, so I guess it would be possible. When we visited DC 4 years ago, we stood in front of the White House for a long time with Emma looking longingly at it, hoping against hope that she would see the girls come outside to play or something. It took us a long time to talk her into giving up on that notion.

      I TOTALLY believe the CIA is behind the dropped calls by the HQ. I thought the phone jamming was just science fiction or something, but I looked it up when I got home, and it's fer-real. We also figured they had all the traffic cones bugged and were listening to all the stupid stuff we were saying.

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  11. I loved this post. I loved the good nature humor about the Secret Service. I love that your daughter is already interested in politics. It also sounds like something that would happen to me too! They would choose to block my cell phone. I know they would. What a great day!

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    1. Thank you! It was an amazing experience! My daughter first got on her political soapbox during the 2008 election, when she was 9. She was so anti-Sarah Palin! She would listen to the news in the morning, then she'd start in... :)

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  12. Say what!?! This whole thing is so awesome. Those secret service men were ON IT when it came to secret photos being taken. I agree though, they had to know what they were walking into a school filled with teens. Challenge accepted! So glad you got the moment documented. How exciting! And the school looks amazing!!

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    1. I still can't believe Emma and I both got our pictures taken with the Vice President! I SWEAR I was only joking when I said I was going to do it. I can't imagine how many stealth photos those kids took! It was the coolest thing ever to have Secret Service all over their school!

      And the school is truly amazing! The wing that will hold the auditorium and the performing arts classes is still in progress, as is one of the three gyms. And some finish work inside and out. It's truly state-of-the art, and if you didn't KNOW you were in a school, you would think you were in a very nice office building.

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  13. Great post! Exciting! And I so believe the secret service jammed your phone lol
    To withstand so much devestation and 3 years later be having the VP personally do a ribbon cutting? That is HUGE! .

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    1. So huge, so exciting, and they SO had it out for me! :)

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  14. What a great day for your daughter and you. I love the pics with Joe Biden. I am so happy that Joplin has come so far since that terrible day. We had a tornado touch down in my community in 09, but God spared us. Only a handful of houses destroyed. It could have been so much worse. God is good and I love how a community can celebrate such a wonderful recovery. Congrats.

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    1. Thanks! It has been a long 3 years to get that high school built. It's awesome how a community comes together in the face of this kind of disaster, and even MORE awesome how people from across the world offered assistance.

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  15. Wow, how totally and utterly EXCITING!!! I bet the kids will tell their grandkids about how they met the vice president :-) I saw our chancellor at a campain speech last year, and thought that was exciting! Have a great week, Dyanne!

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    1. Thanks, Stephanie! It was a once in a lifetime event, without a doubt!

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  16. Oh wow! You and Emma shared such an awesome experience! What a happy way to end the traumatic effects of a tornado. The new school looks incredible!

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    1. It was amazing! And the school is just fantastic on the inside! We visit a lot of schools because of volleyball, and our girls really have an appreciation for how good they have it, seeing the age of some of the buildings we see.

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  17. I'm not really a fan of the VP but even so, this is an amazing thing for you, Emma, and Joplin. I love the pics and I have to admit that Mr. Biden tells the truth about Emma. I cracked up at the SS agent looking up and pointing! I guess in these times they just can't be too careful.

    I will say this, I teared up at that pic at the end. 'We are Joplin.' I remember that tornado very well. Devastation is an understatement. You should be proud. You live in an amazing place!

    Great post, Dyanne!

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    1. It was such a once-in-a-lifetime event, and I'm so glad we were able to get those pictures! She was so thrilled when he told her she was beautiful! The SS agents were really tight assed about the whole picture thing when they were all over the school building all week.

      I love that picture at the end, too. My friend Melinda took it in panoramic or however you say it. I didn't know she took it with me standing there, too, but it turned out really well.

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  18. Great pictures! Amazing. President Obama recently came to UNC. My daughter was like.....is it wrong to skip French 101 to see the President----now that I am the teacher?!? It ended up she had time to sprint there following class. She saw James Taylor (who provided the soundtrack of my kids' childhood) sing, heard the President speak, and he quoted the Wesleyan creed about do all the good you can making her little Methodist heart go pitter pat. It was too much for her. We got photos of her with tears streaming down her face. What a gift this administration---scandal free and representative of all the people including the least of these----has been. It is incredible to me how much affection young people have for these two men and their families as they (insert heavy heart here) leave after 8 great years.

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    1. Ohhh, she's SO LUCKY that she got to see the President! AND he quoted John Wesley?!AND SHE SAW JAMES TAYLOR?! Nice!

      I will be so sad to see the Obamas leave the White House. Such class!

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