I expected walking up to the White House gates to have this heroic “this is what I’m here for” quality about it.
That doesn’t come till later.
Right now I’m just confused. As usual.
“Can I help you.” The voice is abrupt, but maybe that’s just because it sounds like it’s coming directly from the fence post itself.
I self-consciously press down a button on the gate, rolling with the idea that this system works akin to a walky-talky.
“Yeah, I’m with the press, here for Latina Musica.”
They aren’t welcoming and funny like the Capitol security. But they’re nice enough, and very helpful. Then as soon as I’m through security, and walking up the drive toward the gates this life-saver strolls up. And takes me to the press briefing room, gives me a tour of the strange set of blue chairs, claustrophobic kitchen, vending machines and tight staircases of the press briefing room. But that is as far as I get.
The event, Latina Musica, which Barack and Michelle were going to speak at, was cancelled because it seemed highly insensitive considering 12 Navy men had been shot in Washington that morning.
So there is that. I figure I should leave. But on the way out I start taking pictures of the flag at half-mass — carefully staying off the lawn after the first time I’m yelled at by security.
I reluctantly leave the grounds when I can think of no other reason to stay. But I still hang around outside, taking photos of tourists, and sunsets, and flags.
And then, five feet in front of me there is a sound like a gunshot.
Another one. A security guard yells, “Sir.”
I almost run, and then I remember I’m a journalist.
He’s standing right in front of me, and it wasn’t a gun, it was a firework. He trows another through the fence into the White House lawn.
Secret Service rushes him. He’s on the ground. They’re yelling. People are running.
I’m just taking pictures of course. But then cops are coming in from all sides and pushing back the crowds, threatening to arrest people. So I retreat to the other side of the park, where they stretch the crime tape.
A CNN reporter interviewed me as an eye-whitness and asked for my photos. Sadly I didn’t give them to them because I thought I should ask my editor first.