One of the things I wasn't looking forward to upon returning is the heightened security in the D.C. area. Post-9/11, much of the city basically became an armed encampment. Much of this is understandable, of course--Washington is a likely target, and anyone who experienced 9/11 either here or in New York would never want to go through something like that again--but at the same time, there's something a little disturbing about the prevalence of barricades and armed guards in the capital of the country that is supposed to be a paragon of freedom (insert your own joke here). So, here are some of the reminders of the joy of living/working in our nation's capital:
--When we arrived almost 2 months ago, some of the first things we saw were signs all over the airport reminding us that the current threat level is Orange (High)
. Same thing when I've made a few trips to the airport over the past few weeks--big signs on the access roads announcing an Orange threat level. Maybe someday I'll understand how exactly this information is supposed to be of any use, beyond creating a climate of perpetual fear (which is, perhaps, the whole point).
--I just looked out my window and counted at least eight armed guards. That's in addition to the Jersey barriers
and the permanently closed street (accessible only by VIPs in motorcades) that I can also see.
--Yesterday I heard the loud whoosh and roar of a nearby jet, and I about jumped out of my seat (the 9/11 thing again). Luckily it was a jet fighter (we were told later that the Thunderbirds
would be buzzing around D.C.) and not anything threatening. But it was a reminder of how your mindset can change when you live with a particular sort of threat. Sort of like how to this day I don't like to have anything hanging over the bed because of growing up with earthquakes in California.
--Our internal website has information explaining "the difference between safe havens and designated refuge areas."
--In our pre-Basel days when Gretchen was working, we had multiple contingency plans for how to get out of the city and where to meet up in the event of another attack.
--A few weeks ago I had a friend in town who I was going to meet for dinner, and since he was across town at the time the easiest place I could think of to meet was in front of the White House (again, insert your own joke here). There was just one problem...I forgot it happened to be the day that Queen Elizabeth was here
and they were preparing for a state dinner that night. Sure enough, while I was waiting several police cars came screeching up and everyone was yelled at to back far away from the fence (which, by the way, is still quite far from the entrance), while heavily armed men in dark sunglasses patrolled the area and the street was eventually closed even to pedestrians. Thank God for cell phones so we could figure out alternate plans. (And no, we didn't spot either the Queen or the President.)