May. 13, 2020

LIVING A FEDERAL GOVERNMENT NIGHTMARE...BY ASSOCIATION.

After leaving a dead-end job near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I had no trouble finding a teaching job at a high school in Virginia.  Even better, I was able to rent a small townhouse near my daughter’s home in Alexandria, Virginia. Located on an active street corner in Alexandria, my townhouse was one of twelve other townhouses in the same association.

Yes, it was expensive but….everything in the Washington DC area is  expensive. The only amenity that came with my townhouse was a secure parking garage. And, the only time I saw my neighbors was driving in and out of the garage. The only neighbor who was friendly when our paths crossed-- was the woman in the assigned parking space next to mine. On several occasions, getting in or out of our cars, we exchanged a casual remark or two.

She was attractive and dependably pleasant. I got the feeling most of the tenants were “important” professionals who kept their personal lives....private. It didn’t matter to me; I was seldom around.  I was a full-time Special Education Teacher and never had anything resembling free-time.

In addition to teaching five days each week, I was also a full-time college student, working on my Masters. Between classes on campus and classes online--plus homework-- I carried a heavy load. I kept reminding myself, “Sally, you know you always work best under pressure.”

That particular Sunday night, a little after nine o’clock, I was sitting at the computer, finishing a class assignment, when the computer died. Within minutes, my alarm system made a continuously high-pitched, buzzing sound. The security dispatcher said the signal was a warning and would stop after ten minutes but....the security system would be down until  home phone service was restored. I didn’t close my eyes all night. Living on a busy pedestrian corner—less than one block from government housing without any security made me feel like a sitting duck… just waiting....

The next day I called in sick, knowing I had to get my life in order. I contacted my home phone provider for help.  Not only did I need my stationary phone, but the computer and security system depended on phone service too.

Several hours later, the telephone repair man knocked to say he needed access to the garage since that’s where all the phone lines were located. Thirty minutes later, the repairman knocked again. He had a concerned expression when he said “Ms. Miller, your phone lines were intentionally cut. I will have to report this to my supervisor before reconnecting your service. You are required to file a report with the police too.

When the police arrived, I joined them in the garage to see the evidence. I found out all the townhouses phone lines were located against the garage’s longest wall; each line was hidden in a pipe-like shaft. Each townhouse line had a separate shaft....except for mine. The telephone repairman pointed out that, for some unknown reason, I shared a shaft with the townhouse directly behind me. The police had a theory that, at one time, the two townhouses were owned by the same person. Both telephone wires in the shared shaft had been cut at the same time, apparently with wire cutters, and the cut ends tucked back in the shaft.

Using a magnetic card provided to only townhouse owners, there were two ways to enter the parking garage. One entry was a single door for pedestrians and the other was the main garage door used for cars. Neither could be accessed without the owners’ coded cards.

Now, the mystery deepened: Both telephone lines had been cut-- my line and my neighbor’s line. The next question would be: Had the person who cut the telephone lines intended to disrupt my service or was the action taken to destroy my neighbor’s service?

 The police knocked on the townhouse belonging to my neighbor and, when no one answered, left a card in the door. I followed-up with a brief note listing my phone number. If the neighbor wanted to hear more details about the incident, that person could contact me. Several hours later, I received a phone call from the neighbor in response to my note. She said her name was Janet and, after hearing what I knew about the phone lines, she identified herself as the person who parked next to me. She mentioned speaking with the police but said she had no reason to pursue any action since she would be moving. She mentioned finding a charming place in another part of Virginia and the moving company would begin moving her—within the hour! Before hanging up she said “It was a pleasure sharing the parking garage with you and I wish you well.” I’d moved countless times; moving involved endless details and planning; moving was never a spur-of-the-moment decision.

Something didn’t sound right. Ninety minutes later, returning from grocery shopping, I saw them.  There were five identical trucks—all white—lined up one behind the other, on the street in front of Janet’s townhouse. More than five hours later, the white trucks drove past my townhouse like a convoy. After that day, I never saw Janet or her car again.

I’d met the man who owned my townhouse only once—when his place was open for a house tour. At the time, the townhouse was for sale. Several weeks later, knowing I wasn’t interested in buying, the owner contacted me about renting his place. He engaged a property manager to handle the details and my monthly checks were sent to her office.

Shortly after the phone line incident, the property manager contacted me with questions. I answered what I could but mostly, she seemed concerned about my safety. Before long, the manager was telling me more than I needed to know. It seems Janet, was in charge of President George W. Bush’s secret service detail. When the phone lines were cut, it was only days before Bush was leaving on a very-important tour of the Middle East. Janet and everything in her townhouse were immediately moved to an undisclosed location. Her security was breached the instant the phone lines were cut. It didn’t matter if the incident had been meant for her or for me....Janet’s life in her townhouse ended....that day.

 I learned that the property manager had once managed every townhouse in the association and knew everyone who lived there presently and—in the past. I found out that the man who owned my townhouse had once been Secret Service too. Janet’s townhouse and the one next to her had a door cut between them and both townhouses were owned by the US Government. Apparently, important files, documents, and classified information were kept in the townhouse next to Janet.

 It was never clear whether the owner of my townhouse actually bought it from the government, or the government still owned it, and listed it in his name. When I mentioned the white trucks, the property manager said they were Federal Government trucks operated by high-level employees trained in combat. Apparently, everything transported in those white trucks was top-secret.

Before ending our conversation, the property manager shared a valuable piece of information. Janet’s father had also been a secret service agent. In fact-- her father was the lead agent for President John F. Kennedy in Dallas on November 22, 1963... .the day the President was assasinated.