I wonder how many people around the world believe that fellow who claims tomorrow is Judgement Day. One rather amusing side story to his prediction is that a bunch of atheists are allegedly making money hand over fist by selling post-rapture pet care services to people who believe they'll be heading for Heaven tomorrow and leaving poor little Fido behind. (What's the chance any of them will get a refund on Monday?)
A couple days ago, I told you that my unexpected detour into amateur radio led to a meeting with the President of the United States.
Here's the story:
Many hams worked to make it happen, but because I happened to be serving as Georgia Section Manager when everything finally fell into place, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency Director and I got together and signed a formal Memorandum of Understanding. Hams had a long history of working with GEMA and other state, federal, and local agencies during emergencies, but this was the first time we were afforded such a high level of respect, and the first time our role was acknowledged and delineated in writing. It was quite a Big Deal.
|Wow, is that who I think it is down there?|
During annual G-8 summits, the heads of state from Canada, Japan, England, Spain, Germany, France, Russia, and the U.S. get together, and in 2004, as if the big eight leaders weren't enough, other world leaders, particularly from the Arab countries, were also planning to attend. Ergo, there'd be a LOT of prime terrorist targets in one location at the same time. Of the likely terrorist targets named by intelligence agencies, this summit was near the top of the list. Intel was scary and tension was high.
The director requested various levels of support from the amateur radio community, including a four-person A-Team of operators to deploy to South Georgia to provide back-up communications in case the fit hit the shan. My husband and I were two of the four. A network of hams worked in a number of supportive roles, but we went to ground zero.
|The Cloister, site of the G-8 summit|
The bigwigs stayed on Sea Island, at a very exclusive resort called the Cloister. Very expensive, very opulent, and somewhat secluded. Ground zero was a hop, skip, and jump away, at McKinnon Airport on St. Simon's Island, at the MACC, or Multi-Agency Command Center. We were there in support of GEMA, and our base of operations was their enormous mobile communications vehicle, but the entire compound was crawling with Secret Service, FBI, GBI, National Guard, NORCOM, GA State Patrol, and all kinds of military, law enforcement, hazmat, and SWAT teams. Guns everywhere. Even a battery of SAMs. (surface-to-air missiles) Helicopters buzzing overhead, two of which were designated Air Force One. Amazing. And incredibly tense, especially for the first couple of days, when intel suggested the possibility of a dirty bomb or bio-attack.
But the food was awesome. I mean, the government spared no expense. Huge steaks. Biggest breakfasts you ever saw. Fresh seafood. Low country boil.
By the evening of the low country boil, tensions were ebbing, and everyone was in a festive mood. Our mission was coming to an end, and though we'd certainly experienced some interesting happenings, we hadn't experienced any attacks, and we were all still breathing. Or more like panting. (South Georgia in June is hot, hot, hot.)
First off, let me tell you that Condaleeza Rice is a teeny tiny woman with a great big smile. Up until that time, every picture I ever saw of her in the newspaper made her look like the world's biggest grouch, always with a frown or scowl on her face. Not so in person.
A little while later, my hubby and I were in the chow line, when a Secret Service man burst out the door and told everyone to freeze. (I mean, crap, we were just about to scoop the shrimp onto our plates, too!) Then, out came President Bush. WOW. On a funny aside, one of the orders everyone got before deploying was ... NO CAMERAS. You would not BELIEVE how many cameras appeared when the president and Ms. Rice arrived. (And yes, we got pics, too.)
So, bottom line, President Bush shook my hand. I thanked him for coming to visit us, and HE thanked ME for being there. I know. Awesome, right? No matter what your politics are, shaking the hand of any President of the United States makes for an experience never to be forgotten.
One last comment on the experience. In the midst of all the tension, the Georgia State Patrol had a vehicle that made us laugh out loud. It was a little armored vehicle with a battering ram on front. And on that battering ram, there was a bright yellow smiley face and the words, "Have a nice day." Actually, we had a bunch of 'em.
And here we go, it's time for the (ta DA!)
WEIRDEST NEWS STORIES OF THE WEEK:
** In New Mexico, border agents made a bust that was full of bologna. Literally. They caught a man who was trying to smuggle 385 pounds of the contraband into the country. For the record, it was the largest bologna bust in the history of that crossing. Somehow, I doubt if that fact will prevent the other agents from giving the agent who caught it a major ration of ... what else? Bologna.
** In a society fraught with frivolous lawsuits, frequently based on injuries caused by, let's face it, a lack of good old-fashioned common sense, warning labels have become more and more ridiculous. (Like on a can of peanuts, the warning, "This product may contain nuts.") For the past fourteen years, a non-profit group based in Atlanta has been hosting a Wacky Warning Labels contest, and here are this year's five finalists:
- On a ballpoint pen package: "Swallowing the pen cap may obstruct breathing."
- On a dust mask: "Does not supply oxygen."
- On a hot tub cover: "Avoid drowning. Remove safety cover from spa when in use."
- In a bicycle brochure: "The action depicted in this brochure is potentially dangerous. The riders seen are experts or professionals." (They were also young children ... with training wheels.)
- On a leather holster, designed to look like a PDA: "For gun only, not a functional day planner."
** In the Czech Republic, the Prague Zoo is dishing out something unusual in those ice cream containers. Dung. Elephant dung, to be precise. It's the latest fertilizer fad amongst Czech gardeners, and the program was the bright idea of zoo director Miroslav Bobek, whose surname, by the way, literally means "dung." (Poor guy. Think he was destined for this job, or what?) Ah well, at least this stinky souvenir, which sells for just under four dollars a carton, has substance, so it's a better buy than, say, canned cow farts.
Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.