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When the state called and notified me that the president of the United States was coming down to the coast and they asked me to drive one of the vehicles in the presidential motorcade, my stomach did immediate flip-flops.  Honor?  Absolutely!  A huge responsibility?  I don’t think there is a word that fits the answer I have for that one.   

Security clearance wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  I was only thrown into a secure and padded confinement room for two days and interrogated by Secret Service agents for hours on end.  OK, I’m kidding!  In reality, receiving clearance was painless and was easier than I thought it would be other than the images and thoughts of what was transpiring on the other end of that security clearance check. 

The night before the president's arrival and the briefing with the White House advance team was most interesting.  This was where the entire “if, ands and buts” of what to do and not what to do came into play.  In other words, this is where you had better have been a quick study.  One of those moments, I was grateful that my previous law enforcement experience was kicking in.  I sucked air at its conclusion and went back to the “trouse” to toss and turn for hours that night about the huge responsibility I would be embarking on in the morning with the arrival of the president of the United States and being a part of seeing that he arrived safely at his destination point in Bay St. Louis without incident. 

When the big morning arrived, I was running around as if my head had been cut off.  What to wear?  I know dressing appropriately and respectfully when greeting the president of the United States is every indication of your own character and sets an example of representation of your city.  I wanted the state, my Republican Party and the wonderful people of Bay St. Louis proud of me as I represented them in this motorcade. OK, I admit, I changed clothes four times, changed my nail color twice and restyled my hair three times.  Phew!  OK, OK, it was a woman and proper thing to do.

Finally, the big hour arrived and the drivers and I were transported to the destination landing point of the president. That was where we met up with our “new boss,” who was leading the helm of the motorcade, U.S. Secret Service Agent Tracey Hughes, for our next briefing.  For anyone reading this...trust me. She is definitely an agent you do not want to reckon with at any odd.  The look in this woman’s eyes was apparent and clear.  This motorcade was her baby and it would conclude without incident! I couldn’t help but to admire her and all the agents and their jobs to protect the president.

I survived the sweeps of the Secret Service EOD team and dogs, vehicle and body security clearance checks as the vehicles and drivers of the motorcade were secured.  The area filled with enough protection to defend against a terrorist or act of any aggression from those even stupid enough to even think about making that mistake on American soil.

The landing of the president of the United States was the most memorable and awesome site of the day.  Agent Hughes warned us we were "going to be dusted."  That was an understatement.  When the helicopters landed, I for one was running for cover when they set down and the winds kicked up from the helicopter blades. 

When the president stepped out onto the pavement, I was just a few feet from him.  It was at that moment I was very proud to be an American.  I looked into his eyes and I knew at that moment that his plate was full with so much happening around us that I didn’t want his job for even a second of a day.  He holds so much responsibility on his shoulders and to hold so many people and lives in the palms of his hands, suddenly my job responsibility felt so moot compared to his.  The day went great, presidential motorcade a success (proud of myself), another wonderful memory to add to my list of special events in my life and this one will be with me forever, one that even Katrina can’t take away.

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14 COMMENTS

Way to go Patti!

WHAT A HONOER!!!! great for you....something to remember...forever....some good things still do happen....but i'm GREEN with envy

Patti-As a long time resident of the Bay... and fellow Republican...I AM proud of you. My nieces were present to listen to the president at Stanislaus. I remember when Gerald Ford came to the Bay after Camille...my family stood in front of what is now the Library on 90. It was a turning point in my life... to think that someone who had so much to do would stop and shake hands and talk to people. There were a lot less Secret Service agents...I got a picture of him from about 5 feet away on my little camera... but the message I got loud and clear back then in my 9 year old mind is the same today...ONE life can make a difference in the world. Thanks for your representation.

hello patti: im a filipino and when i read your post it really really really affected me in a way envy you.... how i wish i would meet the president someday too...

Wow Patti......that is a story of a lifetime! I'm sooooo excited for you - and sort of wish I could have been you, even though I'm a Democrat at heart. :) Despite the political bents of the men who hold the office, the presidency is bigger than any of them. To meet any of them would be a highlight of my life, never mind my year!

(By the way......good job on being so safe and taking your responsibility seriously. I didn't hear about anything "bad" happening the day he was there!)

starting....to wonder....when updates will come?....if this gets printed wlox.com....WILL give...current info....Great website

Hey Sandy from Sugarland TX, Why Would Gerald Ford visit BSL five years after Camille? Camille struck in 1969 and Ford became President in 1974... just seems odd to me.

I guess the governor's office helped pick the school Bush honored with his presence. So it makes sense it was a private school. I am glad your life is changed for the better. It's good someone's is. BUSH IS SUCH A GREAT MAN TO BE THINKIKNG OF PHOTO OPS.

I apologize if I seem rude, but did you not find it odd that so much money and effort was spent on protecting the president when so much needs to be done in the wake of the hurricane? What does he have to fear in his own country anyway, especially if he responded properly to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina?

Patti, just thinking of you as I did the dishes. Are you and your husband doing ok?

I accept your apology Joe Hiller and in answer to your two questions. No. In fact, I was amazed that for a President of the United States he didn't have more protection than what he did. Protecting the leader of our country (Republican or Democrat leadership) should always be a top priority. What I would find frightening is headline news from other powerful countries declaring “Terrorists take out US leadership”. But then again, as I do, President Bush has great admiration, faith and pride in our military and secret service to protect him and our country with what means available after taking in consideration of the complaints of those that question the "money spent to do so". I am not sure how you look at terrorism Mr. Hiller or even if you do but I for one do not take terrorism lightly in any circumstance of opportunity that could be seized upon. As if 911 isn't a fresh reminder that even on American soil we should take nothing for granted. Our entire Gulf Coast is very vulnerable at the moment, not only to future devastation but terrorism does lurk whether or not we wish to be fools and pretend it doesn’t. What I do find odd is your comment. Especially considering the State you reside in, I just can't help to wonder if that each night you go to bed and lay your head upon your pillow in your nice comfy home built in a free country if you are not thanking the good lord that one of the planes of 911 taken by terrorists didn't crash atop your house in your own community and sadly but fortunately crashed into a field that saved 100's of more lives that could have been lost. My pleasure of the President’s visit to the coast whether by choice, invite, planned, unplanned, or for whatever reason he or those chose for the location? He was here and for the first time I was a part of not whining and crying about what my country should be doing for me, I was a part of doing something for my country. You know what more Americans should try it…it's a great feeling!

Why not let Vice-President Cheney offer the president security? He can shoot a gun. And if anything happened to the president, Cheney could become president. Fight terrorists with terrorists, I always say.

Jane, in Southern Mississippi...I have a question? What grade are you in?

Patti, I no longer am a student; however, I did attain a bachelor's degree in my old school days, back in the 70's. Then I earned a master's degree in the 90's. I was regulary either on the dean's list or the president's list. I worked during high school and college. Since then I have been a homemaker, worked outside the home, worked with my husband, raised two children who are good citizens, and voted in every election, not always for a single political party, either. One of my children has served with the army in Iraq for two tours of duty and is back home now. My other child helps take care of my elderly mother (who has been diagnosed with Alzheimers) while I work. I post late at night because that's when I get home from going to my mamma's house every night after work. I have a healthy disrespect for authority, even though I am over fifty. I believe that a society whose citizens do not have a healthy disrespect for authority is not a democracy, but something less.
I am afraid of the road the present administration seems determined to take this country down. I love my country and have taught my children to do so. However, I believe that loving your country entails searching for the truth and putting two and two together, and maybe not having the popular view that many have. But I do believe what I believe. Others believe what they do. The twain may never meet.
I am amazed that our Pesident would think so little of our Coast, including Gulfport, as to leave it open to a corporation owned by a government that has helped the Taliban, the terrorists of 9/11. Read the 9/11 Report written by a bipartisan committee. I cannot imagine the lack of concern he has for US and the arrogance he displays when he will not even consider what his support for this port deal will bring to our country. Even as the foreign government owned company voluntarily agreed to a 45-day evaluation, our president was intent on not changing his mind, but just allowing the process to go through and still making the deal. This company shipped parts for nuclear switches illegally to terrorists governments after 9/11. Thank goodness, after public outcry, the company has decided to sell their American part of the deal to an American company.
So you see, when I say fight terrorists with terrorists, I am speaking of something so frightening to me as an American, that I have to jump the track. Unfortunately, the track I jumped onto was not really going in the direction of the best taste. Even so, if I didn't laugh, I would cry. I am terrified.
I mean no disrespect to you. I can only say, as I have before, that I admire the people going through so much on the Coast. We are strong people. I used to wear rose-colored glasses. I admire young people like you who are idealistic. I should have been more thoughtful and been more sensitive to your feelings before I posted. It WAS immature, wasn't it?

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