When you think of Homeland Security, you imagine a group of individuals diligently protecting our country. You don’t imagine them being in small town Mayes County. You really don’t imagine them filling a guard shack to intimidate a 5-foot tall girl trying to do her job. At least I didn’t.
I always imagined they had bigger fish to fry and more important things to do.
In light of recent investigations, I went to our local MidAmerica Industrial Park to snap a picture of a plant, not liking any of the ones online.
Within a millisecond of my shutter clicking its first picture, a security guard barked at me to follow her into the guard shack. Confused, I asked what the problem was. I was answered with another bark.
Once inside the tiny guard shack, still confused, I was told to wait for someone else to arrive to “deal with the situation.”
I don’t know how many reporters you know but we don’t like to wait. We have deadlines.
Once the second arrived she began to tell me that because of Homeland Security, I was not allowed to take pictures of “her” plant, from anywhere. She was nothing short of rude (and hostile and uncooperative and a number of other adjectives that aren’t polite to print).
I told her the law allowed me to take pictures from the roadway and that I wasn’t obligated to stay there and be subjected to her attitude. She told me I was wrong. I was once again told I had to wait, this time for the Homeland Security officer.
My grandpa always told me to be respectful to my elders, so I waited.
In the mean time I offered to delete the picture, move my car and get out of their hair, which was not sufficient.
Reinforcement arrived in the form of the Homeland Security Officer and his entourage of three men.
At this point, I was thinking that I am probably the only threat to national security that has shown up wearing pink sparkly shoes and mermaid earrings.
He did his best to smooth out the situation, explaining that my understanding of the law was correct. His surly employees continued to inject their hostility into the situation, forcing him to shush them.
There were now seven people between me and the door of the guard shack. My fight-or-flight reflexes went into over drive.
I apologized, thanked and flattered my way across the room. With one last apology over the location of my car, I darted out the door- drove three feet across the street and took my picture.
For a company whose slogan suggests they “make building blocks for better living,” things seemed remarkably backward.
Forget simple politeness, “forget small town charm and hospitality and treat everyone as a terrorist,” would be a more appropriate slogan.
As a reporter, my day is filled with stories of crime, at home and abroad. I understand the situation our country, our society, is in. There are wars and conflicts everywhere we turn.
If people can’t think of a better place to direct their hostility and anger, I could provide a list a mile long.