When I was in the 5th grade my class took a trip to Washington D.C., and part of the trip included a visit to various Smithsonian museums. Since we had a large class we were split into groups to visit different museums at the same time.
I was part of the group who toured the Holocaust museum. The tour was great; very illuminating for a 10 year old to be packed into a train car and see the horrifying images of the atrocity, but the tour was the shortest of the three groups so we ended up in the large open lobby/bookstore of the museum while we waited for the other groups.
During this wait I got bored, and knowing me, I tend to get in trouble when I'm bored, so I looked for something helpful to do to keep me out of trouble. I found a rag and started dusting bookshelves.
That lasted for about 2 minutes until I ran out of things to dust and we were still waiting. Then I saw something I'd never seen before; a fire-alarm with a very dusty plastic cover on it. I wanted to be helpful so I went over and dusted it, but most of the dust was on the inside of the cover, so I lifted it...
... and all hell broke loose.
The sound echoed through the entire building, and I was frantically trying to get it to shut off when this ENORMOUS security guard came over, and slammed the cover shut, then stood over me looking like he was about to eat me. Several people ran for the exits, and a few women I remember screamed at the sudden VERY loud noise. Everyone was looking at me when it was shut off. I have never since been so absolutely petrified. I have also never been more relieved than when one of the chaperons of our group hurried over to claim me.
My teachers were already stressed out with the logistics of keeping so many kids together and safe/fed/watered/etc. on this trip that when they called me into their hotel room that night to talk they all agreed that they wouldn't tell my parents if I didn't, and just left it at that.
When we got back home, my parents were excited to tell me that I had received a letter from President Bill Clinton which basically said, "heard you were in town, hope you enjoyed your visit." Since I was the only one in my class to get a letter like that, I asked my teachers if they knew anything. They told me that they had been interviewed by Secret Service agents at the museum, and were informed that the President was in an office in the building meeting with heads of the museum and had to be evacuated when the alarm sounded.
My parents didn't find out until I told them the story; 12 years later.
Oct 26, 2011
Classic Bill Clinton
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