A ceremonial air overcame February cold. Stories flew and people laughed in the snaking queue, awaiting admission.
A microphone thrust at me. Comments easy in casual conversation bog in a mire of tepid pressure, an imagined clock teamed with an expectation of cogency. The question evaporated into the storage of time, my answer as uninspired.
Doors opened and people advanced, in an era where security kept a distance rather than the individual scanners what swallow us now, visible but not conspicuous. Two with weapons walked the high school roof.
The gymnasium offered only bleacher seating along oppositional walls. Perhaps a thousand filled the box, maybe more by half. We climbed and claimed our squares of varnished board and awaited the guest of honour. When he walked in and the President stood not 100 feet away, to a twenty-one year old of different political persuasion, the moment nonetheless sparked to circulation hormonal influences producing enjoyment, respect, and attentiveness to situation.
A president stood at the podium as common leader, with the accepted vulnerability of human and not a thing more. This leader followed one who reduced the presidency to rubble. In the rear view mirror, Gerald Ford shines as decent of person if unnoticeable of work. In the wake of Nixon, he calmed a nation.
He talked, forty-five minutes of campaign stump speech. New Hampshire in 1976 as now stood first evaluation in the primary process. He finished by taking questions. A woman of some determination and fire stepped to the microphone. I summarise. Four children, a husband disappeared with no provision of support. She tired of the agency run-around.
“I introduced a bill on this issue,” the President said. “Please give the Secret Service Agent your husband’s information. We will find him by next Wednesday.”
To this day, I wonder.
(Author’s note: The actual day escapes me, somewhere around, well, how about a calendar check? I’m going to go with the 19th of February, 1976, it might be the week before. I do recall it being a Thursday. The answer he gave to her question still astounds me to this day. I know not the outcome.)