Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Who was that beautiful woman?

Most people know that Tallahassee is the capitol of Florida. It is a beautiful city, although at times it does get a little bit crowded. It has two major colleges, Florida State University and F.A.M.U., and thousands of students attend these two fine schools every semester. Usually in February or March Florida’s legislative session begins and Tallahassee really becomes crowded and congested when lawmakers from around the state flock to the city. Tallahassee natives complain about the excessive traffic and the congested roadways, but I still think it’s a whole lot better than having to travel on busy I-95 in south Florida during rush hour. You literally take your life in your hands when you do that.

After the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, the State of Florida, like almost every other state I imagine, decided to beef up its security at future legislative sessions. Uniformed officers of the Capitol Police usually handles security at the Capitol and its buildings but now, in our post-9/11 world, that would all change. The decision was made that all other state law enforcement agencies would be asked to volunteer manpower to help augment the Capitol Police.

Even though I was a Captain with the Department of Insurance (Division of Insurance Fraud), rank didn’t matter and they were really just looking for warm bodies to fill all of the vacant posts they wanted to cover. When the session finally rolled around I worked it for four full days (February 26th thru March 1st). Although these were all 10-hour days and the work at times was demanding and stressful I liked doing it. It afforded me an opportunity to get away from my normal routine at Insurance Fraud and I also enjoyed watching the state senators and representatives, the lobbyists and the private citizens who came to the Capitol to watch their government in action. It was all very interesting.

Unless I was rotated to another position I usually was located at the front entrance to the Senate Office Building. I mostly worked with two other officers, a uniformed officer with the Capitol Police and an officer who worked at Fish and Game. Although they were in uniform I was not and I was in a business suit with a jacket and tie. The work was pretty much what you would expect to see as you went through security at an airport prior to boarding a plane. We x-rayed the contents of people’s briefcases, women’s purses and they also had to go through a walk-thru metal detector. Things usually went along smoothly but every so often the line might get a little long. For the most part though people were patient and they seemed to understand that what we were doing was important and it was for their own good. The painful memories of 9/11 were still fresh and had not yet faded away.

One day near the end of my shift I saw two women standing in line and waiting for their turn to go through the metal detector. When the first women walked through nothing at all happened. When the second young lady walked through the detector it suddenly buzzed and beeped to let me know that something was amiss. I looked at the young woman and suddenly realized what a true beauty she was. She was beautiful! Her hair was perfectly in place, her make up looked like it had been professionally done, her clothes were stylish and elegant and she wore some pretty expensive-looking jewelry. This woman looked like she had just stepped off of the cover of a fashion magazine. When the metal detector alarm went off she looked at me and smiled. It was an “I’m sorry” kind of an innocent smile and it almost made me melt. I told her to go through the detector again. When she did, the same thing happened. The alarm went off again.

I motioned for her to come forward towards me and I picked up the portable hand wand detector that was used when we wanted to be more thorough and certain. In my own mind I was convinced no one this lovely could be a terrorist or a threat to anyone in the Senate Office Building but rules were rules and I would have to use the hand wand. I slowly ran the wand up and down her body, front and back, and both sides too. The wand and my hand never actually touched her, but I still felt like I was invading her space and I was a little embarrassed. She didn’t seem to mind though and she patiently waited for me to finish. As I did, I looked over at the other two officers I worked with to see what they were doing. They were busy with other people at the x-ray machine.

I told the woman that I suspected her jewelry may have set the walk-thru detector off. As I was telling her this I looked over to the right of the detector and saw two men standing there. They were both dressed in business suits and they were smiling. They seemed to be very interested in me AND the young lady. From my many years of law enforcement experience I immediately formed the opinion that these two guys were cops. They were. They showed me their identification and it indicated they were with the Tallahassee Police Department. The beautiful woman walked away from me and then rejoined the two plainclothes officers and the other woman. They entered the Senate Office Building and I never saw them again.

Who was this beautiful woman? I eventually learned that she was Katie Harman and she hailed from Gresham, Oregon. But, she’s better known as Miss America 2002. She had been crowned on September 22, 2001, just days after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Now, she was touring the nation and meeting the people. At Florida’s Capitol she met Governor Jeb Bush, AND me!

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