Last Sunday, my street was taken over by men in black. As my family and I returned home from church, we found it blocked by a sheriff’s car with men in dark suits and sunglasses stationed around the area. All of this would be quite a shock for most folks returning home on an otherwise quiet Sunday afternoon. Fortunately, our neighbor, Dr. Amarjit Dhaliwal, had warned us a few days before that he was having guests for lunch. Specifically, one very famous guest: President Bill Clinton.
Dr. Dhaliwal told us that they would be closing our street at 11a.m. for Clinton’s 12:30 p.m. arrival at a fund-raiser for Hillary Clinton, and he wasn’t sure if we would be able to drive back in after that time. They did let us back in, though, probably because the men in black knew exactly who we were. Why would they know or care? Security, of course. Secret Service agents had been driving around the neighborhood for a couple of days and we had been told they might need access to our back yard to check things out.
As we drove into the garage, I saw my classmates Lindsey, Amy and Jordan near my front door. Ah, so they had believed me. I had sent text messages to a few friends the day before mentioning that Secret Service agents were invading my neighborhood. My friend Debbie responded with a text saying, “haha say hi to the Secret Service for me.” Clearly, she thought I was joking.
Jordan had taken me seriously, and he, Lindsey and Amy had been waiting for the past half-hour. My sisters and I joined them in the front yard, where we took up “front-row seats” on the front lawn. We all pulled out our cameras and picture phones in anticipation of President Clinton’s arrival. The Secret Service agents switched positions, and as they walked by, we began to smile and chat a bit. They were all very friendly and gave us updates on what was going on. One came over to tell us President Clinton had been delayed and would arrive at 2:15 p.m. — we had another hour to wait.
My mom supplied us with egg rolls, strawberries and soda as we exhausted all of the latest news about prom, college admissions and our thoughts on the presidential candidates. We watched guests walking down the middle of the street to the fund-raiser. We smiled when we spotted a Secret Service agent hidden at the end of the street behind a flower bush. After sitting for an hour and a half, I decided to walk around the corner, where I found some neighborhood kids had set up a lemonade stand. The sign on the front read “Lemonade Good Enough for a President.” They assured my younger sister, Laura, that they would sound the alarm and scream when he drove down the street as a signal to get our cameras ready.
Finally, up drove a sheriff’s car, followed by two silver Suburbans with Maryland license plates. We all stood up and aimed our cameras. The first Suburban drove by … then, looking out the window of the second one, we saw Clinton himself! I aimed my camera, and when we waved, he waved back at us! Neighbors who had congregated after coming out to see what was going on scrambled for the fence that separates my yard from the Dhaliwals’. Neighbors young and old lined the fence with cameras, smiling and waving as Clinton got out of his car and was escorted to the front step to meet the Dhaliwal family. None of us knew what to do next. Then, just before he went into the house, Clinton called back to us: “If you wait, I’ll come back out and say hello afterward.” Little sounds of glee rose from the crowd.
Quickly, my friends and I ran to my back yard. We found that if we stood on the incline at the very back of the yard, we could watch and hear Clinton speak. Even a Republican like me was excited! He spoke briefly, then proceeded to greet everyone in attendance at the Dhaliwals’ fund-raiser as they crushed around him. I feel a little awkward now about gawking over the fence, but I was so caught up in the moment.
When it looked like the fund-raiser was about done, we raced back to the front of the house. More people had congregated. Many were milling around my front yard, and some had even set up chairs along the fence separating my yard from the Dhaliwals’. Then the Secret Service asked everyone to line up on the sidewalk facing the street. Just at that point, out walked Clinton into the street to meet us. He walked down the line and shook everyone’s hand. He stopped for a minute when he reached my youngest sister, Lizzie. She was born with some disabilities, and I was really touched when he gave her a gentle hug and waited patiently as my mom’s camera malfunctioned. My mom tried again and snapped a picture before he moved on down the line. We all just melted.
By the time he got to me, I was stuck behind several people, but he stuck out his hand and shook mine. He even smiled and looked at my camera as I snapped a photo. When he had shaken hands with those on both sides of the street, he got into his SUV and waved to everyone. As the street cleared, I was left to sort out the experience.
The neighborhood is still buzzing, with friends sharing photographs and talking about how President Clinton stopped at the lemonade stand and had his Secret Service buy lemonade on the way out. The parents talk about how genuinely nice he was to them and their children. We were all left with a lot to think about.
Katie Mussman is a senior at Davis High School and a member of The Bee’s Teens in the Newsroom journalism program.