Sunday, September 17, 2006

My Near-Brush with Near-Fame

Some of you may have read this before. Feel free to skip to the punchline.

No angry polemic this time out, no forwarded news article exposing the pomposity and/or absurdity of our elected officials; no, this time, I'm here only to share a personal story of my own near-brush with greatness. My own, brief, unfulfilled moment to joggle elbows with history.

As some of you may know, my daughter Cara lives in Virginia, where she's attending college, and she's engaged to a terrific guy named Eric Jones, whom she met in Washington, D.C., one month after 9/11.

How they met is a cute story, but I won't bore you with it here.

Eric is too modest to say so, but he's an actual, real-live, true American hero. A trained paramedic, Eric was driving past the Pentagon on 9/11 when an American Airlines jet slammed into it. He was the first civilian on the scene, and worked for many many many hours at the impact site, saving lives. (There's a photo in the Washington Times archives of Eric and a fireman and a Marine carrying the flag out of the Pentagon rubble; shades of Iwo Jima.) After working nonstop at the Pentagon, Eric then went to Ground Zero in New York where he joined other volunteers looking for survivors among the wreckage of the Twin Towers. He is a brave, courageous guy with a heart of gold; one of the truly good people of the world. I feel fortunate to know him, never mind having him as a future son-in-law.

For his service to the country, Eric was awarded the Medal of Valor by President Bush, carried the 2002 Olympic Torch to the White House, and was more or less "adopted" by the Administration. (To ease any potential anxiety among my readers, let me assure you Eric *is*not* a Republican.) (I said he was a good guy.)

Over the last few years, Eric has maintained a cordial, informal relationship with several members of the Administration; he's been invited to various functions at the White House, etc. My own cynical view is that the Bush Administration likes Eric because he's a decent guy who makes them look good. But whatever the reason, they like him, and he has a surprising amount of access for an ordinary guy. He's on a first name basis with a couple of members of Bush's staff, and it's his casual familiarity with one of them that provides the fulcrum of this little story.

Now, as to my near-brush with greatness and/or history:

Last summer, Karen and Rachel and I visited Cara and Eric in Washington. On a lark, I asked Cara if Eric had enough pull at the White House to get us in for a tour. By this I meant, could he get us on the regular White House tour, etc. Eric offered to call his contact on Bush's staff, a woman he said was Bush's secretary. To our pleasant surprise, she agreed to take us on a personal tour into the actual West Wing -- to parts of the White House the public never gets to see. We were pretty jazzed, but at the last minute, she had to cancel in order to attend the funeral of a friend who'd died suddenly back in Texas. Ah well, maybe next summer.

Now, you may be thinking, "That's it? That's Gerry's big deal near-brush with greatness/history?"

Well, yes and no.

To continue:

This past summer, Eric took a several week trip to Africa, where he did more good deeds (really, he's pushing this whole nice guy thing), wrestled cheetahs, and visited the Silverback gorillas made famous by Dian Fossey. (If you'd like to see a Quicktime movie I slapped together of some of Eric's photos from the trip, check my website at and go to the movie page.)

When he got back, a couple of weeks ago, Eric was astonished to hear about Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers as a Supreme Court justice.

His words, more or less, as quoted to me by Cara, were, "Why did Bush nominate his secretary to the Supreme Court?"

See, the "secretary" who used to call Eric about White House events, who wrote him cute little notes of thanks, who got Bush to autograph Eric's Olympic torch, etc., etc., etc., and who was going to take Karen and Rachel and I on a personal tour of the West Wing was...

... yep, you guessed it...


So I guess maybe she was qualified to wear that big black robe after all.

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