©Photos by Oma Liz
Note Liz (far left; in blue) by truck. Note Liz and tire!
Tire is from one of those mine trucks.
Sometimes, extraordinary incidents occurred at the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum where I worked.
On a Thursday afternoon, several months after Homeland Security had been created, I saw two men who looked – well, cold and strange comes to mind. They were talking in low tones with my boss and were of such serious mien it was disturbing. I could see her getting increasingly agitated and tense as they spoke to her in urgent low tones, constantly looking around straight on and over their shoulders.
Being me, I meandered over and noted that one of the men was wearing a t-shirt that said “tactical” something or other. My cataracts keep me from seeing too clearly. They stopped talking immediately, and my boss motioned me back to the contact station. Her hand was shaking.
I asked her the code word for get help!, but she told me no, it was all right. For over an hour she led them through every corner and niche of the museum. Instead of calming down, she was getting increasingly tense.
Finally, after looking into every nook and cranny on two floors and the basement, they left. She disappeared upstairs to talk to the head of the department, and within ten minutes came back, fighting anger. “He put it all in my hands!” she almost shouted. “He put it all in my hands and said he would not be here till it was over.” Might I add the particular department head was eventually asked to find other employment; not a difficult task for him, as he had been running a business for another company on the side.
My boss told me I would have to be there early on Friday morning because the men were part of what they called a federal tactical group. The only information they gave her was, “We either are or not going to or not going to have or not have a drill protecting an actual or non actual dignitary from an assassination attempt on Friday morning at 8:30.”
As my jaw actually dropped, she said, “That is EXACTLY what they said. My job is to greet her and to give her a grand tour of the museum while the men protected her from possible assassination – or not. They said they will be here for only forty-five minutes.”
My comment was unprintable.
“Every employee here,” she said, “has had a security check done on them. There seemed to be a question about you, and I was asked to point you out. WHAT have you been up to?”
“It’s a long, unimportant story, boss lady. I’ve been long ago cleared. I’d call the Phoenix Police and ask them about these jokers.” [Note: See JOBS Category]
Friday morning I came in early as requested and asked her what was happening. Well, she had tried to call the Phoenix Police yesterday but the line had been constantly busy, and she wondered if these guys were for real. I suggested the FBI or Secret Service or the Capitol Area Police. She went to make some phone calls and came back in ten minutes to say she had talked to all three agencies, and the visitors were for real.
We were expecting approximately seventy five third graders at 9:30, and I hope everything would go according to whatever schedule we knew nothing about.
8:30 came and went. No one arrived.
At 8:40 the front door opened – and a Man In Black came in. He was not yesterday’s visitor. Our jaws dropped. Black suit, white shirt, black sunglasses, earpiece, and blank face. He informed us that the dignitary was running late because she had stopped at Starbucks and that was making their schedule slow.
Several customers came in, one carrying a shopping bag full of souvenirs from the State Capitol Museum down the street. They were followed by five other men who went straight to the original Godfather. Two were dressed casually. The others were dressed in black. They deployed inside and outside the building. The casual ones had no earpieces. No one said anything to anyone, but you could see lips moving.
My boss told the head honcho that the students were coming at 9:30. He said, “Oh,no problem. When she leaves, we are going to take our dignitary out through the classroom before they come, especially if there is an assassination attempt. She is from a Far Eastern Country, of Royal Birth, and speaks fluent English.”
Then I spoke up very quietly so he had to strain to hear me. “The students will be in the classroom and will stay there till this is over. The teacher will give them a longer program. I’ll make the arrangements. You may be protecting the dignitary but MY job is to protect the children. You are not going into a roomful of third graders with drawn guns, dressed the way you are, and speaking into hidden microphones.
Sue’s jaw dropped. “How can you do that?” she demanded.
“I have a right to ‘do that’. I’m an American citizen.”
Honcho looked at me and I detected a slight relaxation of mouth. Not a smile. “Good idea,” he says, “Because we were going to take her out through the classroom where there’s an exit door to outside. Sue and I chimed in that there were several back exit doors to the parking lot. Then he said that changes of plan were good and he had to adjust to them.
As we were waiting around I said I had several questions to ask him. My boss looked shocked.
“Go ahead.” he says. But first let me deploy my men. Several soon appeared in the balcony, carrying rifles with laser pointers attached.
“How about the three people on the ground floor? They’re dressed casually, but are part of your group.”
“How do you know?” he said.
“The fella with the shopping bag is one of yours. The Capitol Museum doesn’t open until ten.” The man and his wife who came in earlier are yours, too. They keep walking around taking pictures and don’t rewind their SLR cameras for the next shot. They’re not reading the signs. In addition, they walk in a regular pattern, make a grand circle, then turn around and go in the other direction. Also, they ignored our gift shop.”
He looked at me, whipped out a note pad and wrote rapidly. Then he nodded at me. “Why do you wear black? Also, I noticed, by the way, that the glasses look dark from the outside but are relatively clear from the inside. Why? (It is a technology that came into widespread usage in automobiles and public transportation during the twenty first century, by the way.) I guess that’s why you can wear the dark glasses inside and outside. But why wear them in the first place? Is this a real dignitary coming, or one of yours? Are you state or federal?
Suddenly a group of some six neighborhood toughs came in to use the bathroom (take drugs and trash the bathroom). Then they saw the agents and guns and f r o z e. I crooked my finger at them and pointed to the bathrooms, saying, “Hey guys, there’s a SWAT team in here. Keep it cool, eh? Wouldn’t want to see you arrested by the feds.” They thanked me profusely. Ran to the bathroom, eschewed their usual vandalism, did their bit and left quickly without making eye contact. I told the boss lady and honcho what I had done. I thought she’d die. Honcho actually laughed. “Good thought!” he said, actually smiling. They never came back, by the way.
He was very relaxed when I finished. He explained that black clothes makes the agents stand out in crowds and not only acts as a determent, but draws fire instead of the person being protected. Casually dressed agents mingle with crowds, but are fully armed. The glasses camouflage their eye motions. No one knows who they are looking at. Some agents do not wear glasses so people DO know who they are looking at. “There are also several agents outside, dressed as tourists, workmen, and local residents.
The dignitary question he said is the dignitary question. Drills prepare us for the unexpected. We do not know if she is a dignitary or an agent.
Shortly thereafter the class arrived and were whisked to the classroom. I told the museum teacher and classroom teachers what was happening and told her to keep the classes in there no matter what. If you think federal agents are tough, you should try to cross teachers protecting their classes. The three women looked grim.
Minutes afterwards, Her Royal Highness arrived. She was dressed in backless high heels, had dyed hair, an incredible amount of makeup, and had pedal pushers and lots of jewelry. I told honcho she was a plant. He asked how I knew. She was very thin, very pretty, was wearing casually designed clothes and not so casual jewelry. However, I noted that her arms had biceps, and her calves above her high heeled shows were bulging. “Look at her muscles on arms and legs,” I said. “She’s a plant.”
Her Grand Tour with my boss, and followed by several agents started. The three agents in the balcony had their rifles trained on the outside doors.
After 15 minutes, they all flowed out of the front door. Flowed.
They were so pleased with the results, they started a protection training program for local law enforcement. However, we were forewarned, and did not schedule classes on those days. The drills continued every six months until the museum closed forever in 2010.
The Men In Black are going to miss us.
John and I laughing about the Men In Black.