Wow, what a winter! Seems as though our snowbird friends could have stayed home. Let's see, we've got over the Pats' loss and are now concentrating on the Bruins and Celtics, with the BoSox warming up for a new season. As one says, "Only in New England."
As a change of space, after having a couple of columns on local politics and attempting to be the spokesman for the "silent majority," may I share a personal story with you that dawned on me while watching TV about the duties and operation of the U.S. Secret Service.
The story I tell all commenced when a student at Newburyport High walked into my office one day when I was the director of Emergency Management. Our office at that time was in the basement of the high school. His first words were, "I want to join your volunteer group, 'cause of all the great work you people do for the city, keeping us safe." His name was Brian Alcorn, and he said he was a junior and age 16. I told him he had to be 18 to join, but I was so impressed with his sincerity, I told him he could be a cadet. I then called his family, Jeff and Nancy Alcorn, informing them I would not put him in harm's way. They agreed, and soon after, uninformed and all, Brian did traffic for the annual marathon, but I had him on Oakland Street, in front of the family home, blocking traffic coming up Oakland Street, and under the watchful eye of Ma and Dad, standing on their front steps.
Brian, of course, grew up, graduated with honors and went on to college, graduating from George Washington University with a degree in international relations. I thought I would never hear from him again, but lo and behold, the phone rang in 1996, and a voice said, "Director, this is Brian Alcorn, and I have an assignment for you. How would you like to be an escort driver for President Clinton and his group in Manchester, N.H.?"
At first I thought it was a prank, but Brian told me he was in charge of an advance team working for the president, arranging rallies throughout the country. Obviously, I jumped at the chance, and I, along with my deputy director, Ray Goodwin, headed to Manchester, meeting at the Holiday Inn for instructions. Here I see Brian, fully in charge, directing and ordering all assignments, including Ray and me. We were searched from head to foot by the Secret Service, then told to head to an area where several vans were parked. Again, we were searched, then were informed to proceed to the Manchester Airport to meet the president's airplanes, arriving in a protected area. Yep, searched again, not only us, but also the van we were driving.
My van drove the president's press corps. We were instructed to do 40 mph the entire distance to the stadium, not stopping for anything, and we were escorted by the Secret Service, driving parallel to our vans. Arriving at the stadium, we were told to sit in our vans awaiting further instructions. By the way, all intersections, manholes and grates were sealed throughout the route, with crowds cheering as we passed by them. After a couple of hours, we drivers were escorted by the Secret Service to come in to the stadium, stand near the entrance and wait. For what, none of us knew, but then, here comes President Clinton, stopping and talking to each of us and thanking us for our help. Again, after the rally, we escorted the president and team back to the airport, where, finally, the two presidential planes took off.
Why, you may ask, do I tell this story? OK, I'll tell you two reasons: Namely, a local boy who was a member of my staff and went on to work for a president and gave me the honor of meeting a president that I would have never had the opportunity, and two, the next time you may want to shake my right hand for whatever reason, you are shaking the hand that shook the hand of the president of the United States. As for Brian, he's all grown up now, married, with one child and lives in Washington, D.C.
His mother, Nancy, told me he still has his Emergency Management uniform and badge. You know what, folks? That makes this old-timer feel ever so good. Thanks, Brian!
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Ralph J. Ayers of Newburyport calls himself a "local yokel."