I looked at those angry faces surrounding me and said "Oh God, Ican't believe you aren't going to let me take these flowers to the memorial!" I closed my eyes and leaned into the flower wreath as the tears began to stream, silently and uncontrollably, down my face. At that moment of total resignation and hopelessness, I felt their hands suddenly drop away from me. I opened my eyes and saw that all the officers had stepped back, leaving me alone with my flowers in the circle they still formed around me. Then I heard a man say "It's OK. I will personally escort this lady to the memorial". By this time, my knees were wobbly, my eyesight blurred by salty tears, and my hands too shaky to pick up the wreath. I sensed rather than saw the presence of a very tall, friendly person in a dark suit standing next to me. (I never really looked up to see his face, I don't know why.) He spoke again with authority, reassuringly, as he said "It's OK. I am here to help you. Calm down. Take a deep breath. Pick up your flowers and follow me."
I was comforted
and relieved at the sound of his voice, and by his repeating "I
here to help you."
In a few minutes I was able to control my tears, and wobbly rubberknees,
but try as I did, I could no longer pick up that floral wreath I
wielded so effortlessly
just moments ago. Finally, he reached in front of me and picked up
with me", he said quietly. He walked just a half step or so
me, but so quickly that I had trouble keeping up. As we approached
"check point" manned by
yet more Smokey Bear-hatted rangers, one of them stepped forward
no more flowers, the area is full." My tears had just begun
to fill my
eyes and sting
again when I heard my escort say, "Secret Service".
"Yes Sir, right this way Sir. Where would you like them placed Sir?"
It was like watching Moses part the Red Sea! Barricades were shifted, people were moved aside, space was made, and all with two little words "Secret Service". How simple! Why hadn't I thought of that? At that point he asked me if I had a preference where the flowers should go. I replied, "It doesn't matter as long as they are near the memorial." He then walked away in the direction of the memorial, carrying the wreath to one side of him. The crowd closed in around me again, and I lost sight of him. I waited, and waited, but he never came back for me. I stood there numb and confused. " Where is he?" I wondered. "I am under arrest aren't I?" I waited for what seemed a very long time. In my confused state, I was still afraid to move for fear of being pounced on again. Finally, my head cleared and I said to myself-"Dummy don't just stand here! If he had intended to arrest you, you would be in jail by now. There is still so much to do. Get going!"
So I did, and no one made any attempt to detain
me. What a
relief! After all,
I probably should have been arrested for my unruly behavior that
I went back to my hotel, had a double scotch to calm my nerves, and then rejoined my Special Services friends in our hospitality suite to watch the day's events on the evening news. I told them about my frightening experience with the orange flames, and said I hoped the flowers had made it to their destination after all. One of the women spoke up and said, "They certainly did! An earlier news clip of the dedication ceremonies ended with a close up of our wreath. You could read ARMY SPECIAL SERVICES on the wreath as clear as day!"
"Could you see who was carrying it?" I asked.
"No. All you could see was the wreath--the Birds of Paradise actuallymoving across the bottom of the screen and then BINGO, there it was, the full close up of our wreath!
You couldn't see anyone behind it, carrying it. It just seemed to
view right in front of the camera. We thought you had arranged
"No' That wasn't my doing," I explained.
"Who was he?" they asked.
I don't know. Was he just a tall, helpful, Secret Service Agent, I wondered? A "faceless" Guardian Angel in tweed, as some of the women later speculated? Or perhaps the whole affair was simply a distortion of my imagination? Where did the flames come from? Did I really see and feel them? Why didn't I look at his face, or ask his name? I don't know--the day was so emotionally charged--I was overwhelmed. But one thing is for certain. Something out-of-the-ordinary did happen to me at the Wall on the day I encountered the Orange Flames--a mystery.
Army Special Services