I was up late last night. Couldn’t sleep. I know, you’re shocked and amazed that I couldn’t sleep. Anyways, I was up reading the latest Vince Flynn book called Act of Treason. A few days ago, I finished reading his book before that called Consent to Kill. I adore Vince Flynn books and they are perfect for the insomniac because they are page turners in that oh-my-god-i-cannot-put-this-down kind of way.
So, for anyone who has read Vince Flynn – you know they are basically the television series 24 in a book, on a larger scale. The topic matter deals mainly with national security and the story line usually covers at least one plot to destroy the world and there is one main central character, Mitch Rapp, who cuts through all the political bullshit and red tape and saves the day, casting aside everything considered to be politically correct in order to just get done what needs getting done.
So, I’m reading the first few pages .. they’re following a Presidential motorcade..blah blah.. and I start thinking about the day I met President Reagan face to face and shook the mans hand.
I was 18 and working a college summer internship at our local Chamber of Commerce. It was actually one of the more ‘choice’ internships to get, at the time – but I was basically a glorified secretary…if that. This official internship had me filing papers, getting coffee, going out to get lunch for everyone, answering phones, etc. It was boring – – but it was a summer job that got me the credit I needed for college.
It was July 1987. I started out the day in the usual boring way of making coffee before everyone got into the office. I was usually there before anyone else so I could open things up and get it all ready before anyone came in. So, I’m there – alone in the office and in walks two very tall… very big men in suits looking for my boss. When I explained that she was not in the office quite yet, the asked where they could get a decent breakfast in town. I pointed them to a local diner just down the street, but before they left, one of them handed me his card to give to my boss. I didn’t even really look at it immediately – – I just thanked them and put the card on my desk and finished my coffee making duties.
Shortly before my boss was expected to come into the office, I sat at my desk to turn on the phone system. I picked up the card and noticed that it had the guys name (which I don’t’ recall now) and the official Presidential Seal embossed on it, along with the words “United States Secret Service”. Wow, I thought my boss must be in SOME trouble! Heh.
Long story short, President Reagan was planning on stopping in our town during a tour he was making of a few Midwest states. You never really think of what happens prior to a Presidential visit – – and all of the sudden, at the age of 18, I was thrown into a whirlwind of finding out exactly what goes on.
Two weeks prior to President Reagan’s visit – the Secret Service took over our offices. Literally, turned them into their own, personal command central. We must have had 100 agents in and out.. using our conference rooms.. tacking up all possible motorcade route maps on all the walls. We had press everywhere… TV stations outside the door, radio stations calling in constantly…it was a zoo.
My boring internship just got a little more interesting, wouldn’t ya say? I spent those days making coffee for the Secret Service and delivering their lunch. One of the guys took a liking to me.. I mean, comeon .. I was 18… blonde….easily impressed….and, yea – flirty. In the last days right before Reagan’s visit – this Secret Service guy (I don’t’ even know his name now) took me on his tour of the rooftops in our town. Literally, took me up on the rooftops and showed me all the areas they look for, points of vulnerabilities, things they needed to cover and areas they needed to protect. It was really interesting.
And before you start thinking those thoughts (Astro!) – no, nothing happened between me and the Secret Service guy! It was just all very interesting.
They faked a practice motorcade and made a big show of doing a practice run of the helicopter landing – – actually bringing the helicopter in, landing it – – going through the motorcade route then back to the helicopter and taking off. All of it was show, for the press, for the local people….it wasn’t even close to planned motorcade that would actually bring President Reagan in the next day. He actually flew into Milwaukee – Mitchell International Airport – and drove up Highway 45 directly into town. No helicopters were involved.
We knew that Reagan was speaking at the Rotary Club that next afternoon. It was 1987 and the Rotary Club, at that time, was exclusively a MALE club – – no girls allowed. (can you imagine??) All the people who worked at the Chamber of Commerce that summer were women – so we were helping the Secret Service do all its leg work, but knew we weren’t going to meet or see the President on the actual day he came to town. But, even so, it was exciting to be involved in the process.
The day before the President came – we were all working hard in the office, making sure all the little details were attended to. At the very end of the day – the Secret Service called us all into the conference room. There, he announced, that we were all invited to the Rotary luncheon where President Reagan was scheduled to speak. Rotary Club luncheons were, as I stated, for men only. Because we were all women… and not official Rotary members – – we weren’t going to be served lunch. We could, however, stand in the back of the room – against the wall and listen to President Reagan speak in a very small room with roughly 100 Rotary Club members and the President and his people.
Actually, now that I think about it – – it’s pretty offensive to take a group of women and tell them that they could stand quietly against the wall while the men ate and discussed matters of state, isn’t it? I’m not sure if it’s because of the time (1987) or because of everyone’s excitement at meeting the President – – but no one, at the time, seemed to care much about it. We were all pretty excited.
The day came and there was much fanfare as the Presidential motorcade made its way through downtown. It was a parade atmosphere that almost the entire city showed up for. Balloons, banners, confetti — Reagan was pretty popular here. I went with my parents who were HUGE Reagan fans. The motorcade ended at the restaurant where the luncheon would be held. We watched as Reagan got out of his car, waved to the people and disappeared inside the restaurant.
I looked at my folks and said, “Well, I’ll see you guys later… I have to go have lunch with the President now.” Heh.
And so I did. Well, I didn’t have lunch at all. No…I stood quietly at the back of the room while the men ate and the President spoke. We were all just thrilled to be there…to listen and to watch. For me… just being able to say that to my parents was priceless enough. I don’t even remember what his speech was about – – but thanks to the internet I can read that speech now.
Reagan finished his speech stayed a bit longer to meet and greet with the Rotary Club members.
Remember the Secret Service guy who I was all flirty with? Us ladies were just about to leave the restaurant and the Secret Service guy came up to me and said “Lisa…please come with me.”…
I walked with him for a bit and the very next thing I knew – – the crowd around us had cleared and I was standing right smack in front of Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America. The Secret Service guy said “Mr. President, I would like you to meet Lisa Sabin. She worked hard with us over the past two weeks to help us coordinate your visit here. She was a big help.”
President Reagan extended his hand.. gave me the warmest smile I’ve ever experienced from anyone..ever and said, “Lisa, it’s very nice to meet you. Thank you very much for all your help this week.”
I said… …. ….. …..
Hell, I don’t even remember if I said anything.
I shook his hand, and then it was over. The Secret Service guy walked out of the restaurant with me, and then disappeared. I never saw him again. I don’t even know his name. But he turned my boring summer internship into something really cool.
So, Mr. Secret Service guy – wherever you happen to be today….thanks!