About a dozen years ago, I was employed with a security firm. The Secret Service, now known as Homeland Security, contracted with our company. When my superiors approached me with the prospect of taking special training classes and working with the Secret Service when they requested personnel, I jumped at the opportunity.
I was trained in self-defense techniques, which would prove useful when apprehending people. I learned about surveillance and the finer art of reading people. I finished at the top of my class in explosives and proper procedure of deactivating explosive devices. The instructors recommended me as a “lead” security agent within the ranks of the security firm I had been employed with.
It was the summer of 2000. I had been asked to work alongside the Secret Service. Normal protocol, they ran me through the gamut, legal background, financial profile, psychological testing, I passed. My job: help insure the safety of the former 41st President of the United States George H. W. Bush and the former First Lady Barbara Bush. The location – the LPGA US Open Championship held in a northern suburb of Chicago.
Every morning at daybreak, we swept the parameter for explosives, wires, and taps, anything that may have presented a possible threat. The President and First Lady slept comfortably in the mansion of the country club, while Secret Service provided round the clock surveillance and security. I was posted in the rear of the house, at the gate where the Presidential entourage would be entering and exiting several times each day to attend the national televised event. My job – nobody beside the President, First Lady and Secret Service are allowed through the rear gate.
Everything was fine, the first couple of days. The event lasted five days and on the third day, early in the morning, a man approached the gate and said he was the son-in-law of the President and First Lady. He said he wanted to get to the house to make his appearance as a surprise. I was not born yesterday, nor was he going to get past me. I checked his credentials, driver’s license and such, and when I radioed to the Secret Service Agent in the house the man at the gate became slightly agitated. It was apparent he was upset his cover was about to be blown.
The Agent instructed me to make sure the man did not suspect anything, he and another Agent would be assisting me shortly. The man must have heard the transmission. He began to grab the gate and tried to squeeze his way through, all the while repeating his plea of knowing the First Family and wanting to surprise them. I had no alternative. His behavior gave me reason to believe he was now a suspect rather than family. I tackled the suspect to the ground and handcuffed him.
It seemed like hours, but a few minutes after apprehending the man, the Secret Service Agents showed up. They stroked my ego by telling me what a great job I had done and they escorted the man away. Feeling good about my heroic efforts, I walked around for the next few hours proud as a peacock.
Later that afternoon, while on break I took a stroll and visited the gift tent on the golf course. When I returned from my break, and check back in to inform the Secret Service I was back at my post, an Agent came by to inform me the man I apprehended was indeed a member of the First Family. I was royally embarrassed. The Agent assured me I had no way of knowing and the fault lie with them as the Secret Service blundered and should have informed me of his status when I radioed in for assistance; that did not ease my discomfort.
About an hour after receiving the embarrassing information that I had apprehended a member of the First Family, the Presidential entourage came blazing a trail from the mansion making its way to the gate I guarded. The President was not there, the First Lady was there as was the man I apprehended and several members of the Secret Service. I began feeling flush as I expected to be chastised by the First Lady for placing a member of her family in custody. As she gracefully dismounted the motorized golf cart, my knees began to feel like soft butter. It was difficult to look her in the eye.
“Good afternoon”, she said with a grandmotherly smile, “I understand you met my son-in-law earlier today.” The man I apprehended, Robert Koch, whom I should have known, and the Secret Service really had no excuse for not knowing, although they said there was confusion because he was not on the guest list, stood behind the First Lady. Mr. Koch then turned to walk back to the golf cart.
“Can I ask you your name?”
“It’s Dane, Ma’am.” I said in a shacking voice still in awe I was standing before the First Lady and actually holding a conversation.
“Well, Dane. You are doing a fine job and we apologize for the commotion my son-in-law has caused you.”
I thought; the First lady is apologizing to me, that’s a first. I’m nobody from nowhere and she is standing here offering an apology, this is too much.
The First Lady shook my hand, gazed around the yard, and said, “Such a beautiful day today, wouldn’t you agree?”
“Stunning!” I responded.
Mr. Koch approached me with a package in his arm. He was smiling, he shook my hand and said, “Thanks for watching out for my family.” He handed me the heavy package and began walking back to the golf cart. I opened the gate to allow them onto the golf course.
After they were out of sight, I opened the package. I could not believe my eyes. They had given me a plaque. Earlier in the gift tent, I had been browsing the overpriced memorabilia. One item in particular caught my attention, a commemorative plaque depicting Payne Stewart at the men’s US Open in 1999 wearing the W.W.J.D bracelet given him by his son. Shortly after winning the men’s Open, Payne Stewart died in an airplane disaster. I admired Payne Stewart as a golfer and I fell in love with the plaque. I did not purchase it because it cost several hundred dollars and I did not have the expendable cash at the time. The plaque was given to me from the President’s family for protecting them, when I was simply doing my job.
I have no idea how they knew I was admiring the plaque. The best I could figure is the Secret Service did not inform me of everything and possibly, they had a camera in the gift tent. Perhaps, a member of the First Family followed me into the tent, I simply do not know. It could be mere happenstance. The one thing I do know is that was a very strange surreal day.
Each time I saw the First Lady from then forward over the next two days, she smiled, waved, and once she even stopped by and inquired how I was doing, just a brief matriarchal inquiry. I did met the President, he was not so inviting. The First Lady was definitely the more outspoken of the two. From the first time I met her, it was as if she were family.
This has been a… View From My Loft