My shocked reaction on Sept. 11 would hardy distinguish me or my story from practically every other caring American. But the next day would. You see, on the day following 9/11, I left my D.C. apartment to donate blood at the AmericanRed Cross building on E Street Northwest.When I left that building, I had a burning desire to see the building which had been evacuated the previous day as a probable target of terrorists, the White House.
As I stood in front, watching the flag blowing at half-staff, I thought of the yet unrolled deaths that the flag honored and represented. Then I suddenly realized that tours had not been cancelled. When I expressed my surprise to two guards near me, they said that they, too, were surprised. I walked to the East Gate. There stood four guards talking, but no line for tours. A guard told me I could go right on in. I did. No need to empty my pockets; the guard there said he could watch me. I took more than an hour just walking through this building with a renewed sense of patriotism. I looked through the window at the South Lawn landing area where just 16 hours earlier President Bush had landed in Marine One under the escort of four f-16 fighter planes.
That evening on the news I learned that only 200 surprised people toured the White House that day, that the safety perimeters of the White House had now been extended, that PA avenue was now closed to pedestrians as well as to vehicles, and the Lafayette Square was cordoned off. The next day, the White House was again evacuated. Then and now, ten years later, I feel fortunate to have experienced the up-close and personal sharing of the People’s Mansion.