My daughter and son-in-law both work in Washington, D.C.. When I go to visit, since September 11, 2001, I always think about how different security is at the White House now.
My brother and sister-in-law worked for the Office of Management and Budget in D.C. back in the late 80s and early 90s during President GHW Bush’s term. My older two children, my friend and I visited my brother and his wife in October 1992.
My friend, the kids and I drive around D.C. to see the sights. We look at and stop by many of the monuments. We also take the Metro train to the National Mall. The AIDS quilt is being displayed and there is a march to the White House planned for one of the days we are visiting my brother.
One night my brother asks if we would like to tour the White House. Well, sure, of course! My bro explains that this is a private tour after the public tours are over for the day. Even better! What an experience for the kids! (and my friend and I, too!)
We drive to the White House, that sounds funny since you can’t get anywhere near it now. My brother takes us in an entrance and calls up to the Secret Service to get security clearance for my friend and I. Whew, we pass! We get IDs on a lanyard to wear as we take our tour.
We wander around the White House. Unescorted. We are told not to go up to the personal rooms of the President and First Lady. They aren’t there, but it is still exciting to be that close to where they and so many other presidents have stayed while in office.
We visit the Cabinet room and sit in the chairs. Each one has a small gold plaque with the name of a Cabinet member on it. Assigned seating in the Cabinet, who knew? I want to switch the chairs around, but don’t want to get kicked out. So I don’t.
We visit the White House press room. Here’s me at the podium, pretending I am giving a press conference. Nerd.
After the press conference we head to the Rose Garden. Very beautiful, even at night. We can’t just wander on the lawn, however. We stay on the patio.
Next we head to the Oval Office. We weren’t allowed to go in. There were velvet ropes telling us we can’t go in. We stand outside the door, looking around at the pictures and whatnot there in the Oval Office.
All of a sudden, out of nowhere, the Secret Service, who have been milling around, jump into action! We are told we have to leave and the Secret Service man runs off.
We move to an exit my brother suggests. It is locked. The White House is on lock down! An ACT UP (a protest group)member has jumped the White House fence from the march!
My brother and our group wander around trying to find an unlocked exit. None. We truly are locked in. We seek out and find a Secret Service agent and tell him our predicament. He doesn’t seem concerned we are there, still in the White House.
The agent leads us down some stairs and into a kind of tunnel. He explains it’s an old entrance and exit connecting the White House to the old Vice Presidents House. The Secret Service agent finally lets us outside but are still locked in the gates. A guard lets us out. We are free!
Years later, my husband and I visit our daughter in D.C.. My husband has never been to D.C. before and we take the Metro train into the city. I want to walk up near the White House.
No go. There are big concrete barriers keeping anyone from driving by the front of the White House. We get out and walk and everything is blocked off and there were armed guards on the roof and everywhere. Forget about getting near the fence.
I’m glad I got the chance to see the White House as we did. We got to see rooms the public tour did not show. I think I might take the public tour of the White House someday. I think it’s reopened for visitors now.