9/11 at the White House

We’re just a few days past the 13th anniversary of 9/11, like many people, I can’t believe it’s been that long.

I was at home in bed when the first plane hit the twin towers.  I was in college and off of school that day.  My mom came running up stairs to my room telling me that New York was under attack.  In my groggy, just woken from slumber state, I remember thinking that it was too early for a baseball game.  My brain processed my mom’s message in baseball terms of them losing pretty bad.

I went downstairs to the living room and watched the endless replay of the impacts as well as the following crashes.  It was pre-cell phone era still in our household so we couldn’t get a hold of my sister who was out running her errands.  Not knowing what was going to happen next, mom and I decided to go gas up our cars and go to the grocery store for some essentials.  We managed to go to the filling station before they decided to sell a gallon of gas above $8.  (Luckily that only lasted for a little while before they were ordered to lower the prices).

I remember I didn’t feel safe until I saw President Bush speaking on TV that night.  There was one speech that I saw, he wasn’t in the Oval Office, but standing at a skinny podium somewhere.  I remember so vividly seeing him crying.

This is just a brief account of my 9/11 memories.  What I wanted to write about for this Sentimental Sunday post, was my 9/11/2006 experience.

September 2006 I was a White House Intern.  It was only our 2nd week so everything was still new to me.  I was used to security, but I guess I wasn’t prepared for an all out blockage of Pennsylvania Ave.  Normally I got off the subway from my apartment at the McPherson Square stop and walked through Lafayette Square park to get to the office.  But that day, I was not allowed to exit the park, even though all I had to do was cross the street and I was there.  I had left early enough because there was to be a special 9/11 ceremony on the South Lawn……. but not early enough for a detour.   I had to go all the way out of my way just to arrive at the same destination.  Being that I wasn’t used to wearing these fancy dress shoes it took me a long time.

So after going through regular security and getting to my office….the interns had already left for the ceremony.  I was upset, but sat at my desk, ready to work.  I sat in the room with my two immediate supervisors.  I was asked why I wasn’t at the ceremony and I explained my dilemma.  One of my supervisors told me I could go with him and he escorted me to the South Lawn of the White House.  I was given a flag pin to wear on my suit lapel. 

He and I stepped out onto the lawn and found a office co-worker and stood by her.  The lawn was divided into two rows.  I could see from the colored badges that all of the interns were on one side of the grass, and I was on the opposite side with the cabinet and upper level staff members.  I closed my coat around my badge so no one else could see who I was.

I didn’t know what the ceremony was going to entail.  I hadn’t seen the President yet, so I was kind of hoping that he would be there.  If I had been thinking intelligently, obviously he was going to be at other commemorative events in New York and such.  

I was in a state of awe like I had never been before in my life, when the doors opened and I saw who was being escorted by Vice President Cheney.  It was former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.  Oh My God !  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  Here is a photo from that morning.  You can’t see me in the picture, but I am standing behind the woman in white on the upper left hand corner of the picture.  In the background you see the soldiers holding the flags, and the one on the left has a rifle.  To the left of him is the woman in white and I am behind her.  

The tragedy of 9/11 will never be forgotten, and neither will this event I attended to honor those who were lost during the terror attacks.  

This photo is from the White House website which is now in archive status but still accessible here. White House Archive Web Site      

Vice President Dick Cheney and Lynne Cheney stand with former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain for a moment of silence on the South Lawn September 11, 2006, to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. White House photo by Shealah Craighead

You’re Hired! White House Intern

I make a living keeping track of records…other people’s records.  I’m not so good when it comes to my own.  People would be appalled to know that I have boxes full of unorganized papers and photographs.  Thus I’m angry at myself for not keeping a better journal of the time when I served as a White House Intern.  Hopefully, using my blog,  I can resurrect what events occurred and piece together thoughts and feeling from past emails and notes and pictures.  (I have lots of pictures !)

It’s hard to get started when I can’t even recall why it is I was pushed in the direction of our nation’s capital.  At the time, and the time was late spring 2006, I was employed in City Government for a year, so I had a decent primary job and working part time in retail plus taking some extra college courses here and there.  At the beginning of 2006 I started in a new work location for the City, in the Document Services Section which housed the City Records Center, Mail Room and Print Shop.  Prior to this I had taken 2 government classes at Milwaukee Area Technical College with the same instructor.  He was a former City Department Head and State Senator.  In my opinion a very honest politician and somewhat of a hero to me… even if at the time he was a member of the opposing political party.  I looked up to him so much and was grateful that he gave me a superb letter of recommendation for my Intern application.  His classes got me energized to become a more active participant in politics. 

I found the application for a White House Intern when I was on my Congressman’s website and he had a link to studentjobs.gov.  That’s where my memory gets fuzzy because I don’t remember why I was searching for a job. Perhaps I had a bad day at work or something.  I didn’t tell a lot of people what I was doing.  I was actually embarrassed because I felt like they would think I was out of my mind for attempting this.  I only had a week left before the deadline to submit everything I needed to be chosen for the Summer semester.  I was down to the wire and faxed all my materials on the last day.  




Something pushed me to try one more time. Just one more time, anything more and I’d appear obsessive about getting the job.  I used the summer to tweek my application before trying for the fall semester. Parts of this story still bring tears to my eyes when I think about it.

I remember it was a very hot summer day.  Even working in the basement we had unnecessary lights and equipment shut off to help cool the temps.  I was working on the Xerox Docutech High Speed Copier.  I was alone in the print shop at the time, when the phone ring.  I looked down at the caller I.D. and it read “Call from 202”.  Puzzeled, I looked at it for a few rings.  I couldn’t figure out why the 2nd floor would be calling me.  That would have been the City Clerk and I didn’t have any current business with them.  I picked up the phone to ease my worried mind.

“Print Shop.  This is Maggie,” I greeted.

I was asked my full name and I confirmed.

The woman introduced herself and asked, “Do you know why I’m calling?”

I told her I thought I did.  

It was this phone call that I was offered an internship in the photo office at the White House.  I couldn’t believe I had actually been selected.  She told me if I wanted to put my hand over the receiver and tell my co-workers the good news I could.  I looked around but no one was there.  During the conversation, Marvin had come in and was talking to an employee from another department near the mail room and I tried flagging him down. 

When I fished the phone call I was so excited and couldn’t wait to spread the news.  I ran all the way up to my old department to tell everyone.  Then I went to my 2nd job that night to tell those co-workers.  I was frantically trying to tell everyone.   It reminded me of a silly little clip from The Monkees’ episode called I’ve Got a Little Song Here when Mike sells his song to a Hollywood producer.  Here’s the clip.

My official start date was in September after Labor day.  I had a lot of work ahead of me the next few months putting together a suitable wardrobe, finding housing, getting my college credit squared away and tying up what needed to be done to be temporarily released from my job with the City.  The summer flew by.


pogo pic