By Jim Heffernan
|The White House, Washington D. C.
The recent news that a man jumped the fence at the White House and scampered all the way to the main door of the executive mansion has become a major embarrassment to the Secret Service. As well it might.
It turns out that the suspect had had two recent encounters with law enforcement authorities, one in which it was discovered in a traffic stop that he had several guns in his vehicle along with a map of the White House, and another, just a few days before he jumped the fence, when he was questioned near the White House because he was on foot carrying a hatchet. In both cases he was not detained.
My, my. Who’d think you could get anywhere near the White House carrying a hatchet without some kind of repercussion. Certainly not I after an experience I had near the White House almost 30 years ago.
Our family had taken a vacation trip to Washington in about 1986 to see the sights. Our son and daughter were in their erly teens. Unfortunately, our young son was ill with a severe eye infection, which put a damper on our sightseeing.
But one night, after dark, when we were back in the hotel, our son needing rest, I wanted to see Washington by night. So I took my daughter for a ride around downtown Washington while my wife stayed back in the hotel looking after our son.
The night-time drive was a very worthwhile thing to do – floodlights galore on all of the monuments, the Capitol dome – but, of course, I wasn’t used to driving in that city. As we circled the White House on the roadway nearest the south lawn, I reached what I thought was an intersection that would lead to the street where our hotel was located.
Instead, it was a small intersection that led to the White House grounds, blocked off with concrete barriers, and guarded by uniformed police officers.
Too late to alter course, I turned into it, and came to an immediate abrupt stop, realizing I had made a mistake. The two guards quickly and ominously approached the car, hands on holstered side arms, and threateningly ordered me to back away. Which, of course, I did.
I would guess that well-guarded roadway to be about a block from the White House itself, apparently guarded 24-7 way back in 1986. So now in 2014 you can hang around there carrying a hatchet and then later jump the fence and make it through the North Portico doors?
As Desi Arnaz would put it, the Secret Service has got a lot of ‘splainin’ to do.
Just in case you missed the story... read THIS updated story.